Butler says the brand isn’t looking for geographical operators as much as its searching for the right fit—people who can help the brand grow. “I would say somebody who doesn’t necessarily have to be in food, but they’ve run businesses before,” he says. “And we know with both brands that we’re on to something big because we are attracting those people who are multi-unit owners who want to add to their portfolio.”
As for The Great Greek, Butler says UFG has seen no shortage of interest. In the 20 or so months since they’ve franchised the brand, founded by Nick Anthony Della Penna and Trent Jones, the company has sold about 75 franchises, he says.
The 11-unit chain, which is in Texas, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and Colorado, skews higher end fast casual. Food is served on plates with silverware. There are no trash cans in the front of the house. Guests place their order at the counter and then are served at the table. “We want it to be a true dining experience, but with a fast-casual setting,” Butler says.
When UFG acquired The Great Greek, it was pushing stellar numbers. Della Penna, a third-generation restaurateur, had 20-plus years of experience, including serving as VP of food and beverage at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino. Along with Jones, a real estate and small business entrepreneur, the duo bought the first location in Henderson, Nevada, in 2011. During their first year of operation, the company said, gross revenue jumped 18 percent. In 2017, it was $1,546,137. The second store—in the southwest area of Las Vegas—opened that year.
Heading into the deal, through the fourth quarter of the previous year, The Great Greek’s daily sales were tracking nearly 30 percent higher than the original location, with the average monthly revenue of the two stores at $143,690 in 2017.
Butler says the brand could scale overseas, too. “We have two good opportunities in the food space right now,” he says. “There’s plenty of room to grow.”