Of all those avenues, the future appears to be drive-thru. Huey Magoo’s tested the channel a couple of years ago, and Howard says it’s taken sales to levels “I was only dreaming of that this brand could go to.” Five of the 18 open units have drive-thru, and those stores boast the highest volumes in the system. Even though it’s not a requirement for new locations, Howard estimates roughly 80 percent of future development will contain a drive-thru.
The CEO says drive-thru does add complexity to operations, which is why Huey Magoo’s is making sure it signs franchisees who can handle the undertaking.
“Most of our operators have had prior restaurant experience. Some that have not have actually been enormously successful, but I would say 90 percent come from other organizations,” Howard says. “We want good quality, passionate, honest, hardworking franchisees that just absolutely love this Huey Magoo’s brand.”
“I, Andy Howard, personally am involved in franchise sales,” he continues. “I am the first contact that somebody would make. If they call me on a Sunday afternoon, I'm going to pick up the phone. ... I feel it’s that important that I am the first communication, the first line of contact, and it’s gone a long way. It really is an important piece of our business to partner up with great people. We're taking their hard-earned money, and we take that very seriously and we want them of course to be successful, and so far it’s working.”
As Huey Magoo’s footprint continues to expand, so do sales. Howard says the chain experienced quite the storm at the beginning of COVID, but those tribulations only lasted a couple of months since off-premises was already a major part of how the chain served guests. Year-to-date, Huey Magoo’s comps are growing 21 percent year-over-year, and sales outside the four walls are mixing 80 percent.
To improve digital offerings, the company recently hired its first IT director and launched a new mobile app in the fall of 2020.
“We're trying to stay up with technology,” Howard says. “It's a very, very critical, important piece of our operations. The app is off and running. We're promoting it more and more all the time and doing some more marketing with the app to get more folks to sign up and use it. We're excited about what that will mean for us today and in the future.”
Huey Magoo’s is moving forward with openings despite headwinds from labor and the supply chain. Some franchisees have experienced more challenges than others and have increased pay and benefits. But for the most part, there are enough employees to run the restaurants. Howard also makes the point that most franchisees are multi-unit operators, so they know how to get ahead when it comes to hiring and training workers prior to the next store opening.