Four former Wingstop executives have turned their attention to Florida-based Huey Magoo’s, purchasing the brand with plans to expand the chicken tender restaurant beyond its four locations.

Huey Magoo’s, centered around Orlando, was founded in 2004 by Matt Armstrong and Thad Hudgens, who will retain a small piece of ownership in the new parent company and will continue to operate two of the brand’s locations.

Andy Howard, Wingstop’s former executive vice president, is now the CEO of Huey Magoo’s and says he sees many similarities in the two brands.

“After I left Wingstop, I was searching for my next opportunity and was really focused on finding something small-box, a similar model to Wingstop with strip-center type locations, similar investments, and a single minded focus on a chicken tender, so I was either going to find something existing or I was ready to start from scratch and do my own thing,” he says.

Howard stumbled upon Huey Magoo’s while doing research, and while the company wasn’t for sale at the time, a cold call led to a meeting and eventually the proposition for him and several other partners to acquire the restaurant.

New owners and executives in the company include former Wingstop CFO Wes Jablonski, Mike Sutter, former vice president of training at Wingstop, and former head of international training at Wingstop Shawn Lawler.

In addition, investor and developer David Ross and Jim Rudolph—a multi-unit franchisee for Wendy’s and Chuck E. Cheese and former owner of Rita’s Ices—will join as owners.

“Everybody claims they have the best tender on the market, I truly believe that we do,” Howard says. “The special hand breading and marinade is done in the store each day. Some of our competitors only have fried, we have fried and grilled. That is the only protein that we do so we are very creative with the tender; you can get it in plain, with dips, in a salad, on a sandwich, in a wrap … it’s all based around that beautiful tender.”

The new owners also have plans to expand franchise sales under a model that Howard says encourages growth and makes finding franchisees easier.

Under Huey Magoo’s franchise plan, franchisees pay a $35,000 franchise fee, and the company takes a 5 percent royalty fee and a 2 percent marketing fee.

“The big-box guys have great companies, but the huge investment required is what differentiates us, so when [we’re] looking for a franchisee, we don’t need ex-multimillionaires,” Howard says. “It can be a little bit easier to find potential franchisees to take our brand and expand it.”

The owners also plan to aggressively expand Huey Magoo’s express units—500-to-800 unit stores aimed at serving college students. The brand has one express unit now in the University of Central Florida student union.

Howard says they plan to grow the brand outside the state after expanding to several more Florida markets, including Tampa.

“Just like at Wingstop where we were very, very careful and had an unbelievable relationship with our franchisees, we hope to do the same at Huey Magoo’s,” he says. “Certainly over some period of time, we will expand outside of Florida … We know how to build a franchise company; we’ve done it before, so hopefully we’ll do it again to whatever degree we can do it.”

By Alex Dixon

Fast Casual, Franchising, Growth, News, Wingstop