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While many concepts tend to focus on a carefully calculated, region-by-region expansion in their pursuit of brand growth, Texas-based burger company Mooyah Burgers plans to ride the “better-burger” wave from coast to coast in the next 10 years.
Mooyah announced that it signed development deals for Connecticut, Maryland, Western Oklahoma, Eastern Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., and there are already plans for 450 stores to open in the next decade.
Alan Hixon, president of Mooyah, says the company plans to expand with the help of multiunit, multiconcept operators who have the infrastructure and capital necessary to hit the ground running with development.
“The development-agent structure basically allows us to train these teams of people that already have resources that they can dedicate to Mooyah exclusively,” Hixon says. “We work specifically with them, so in a fairly reasonable amount of time, we have built, for lack of a better description, subsidiary companies throughout the country that carry the torch for us.”
Hixon says cross-country growth for a small chain—Mooyah today has 19 open locations and just started franchising in 2007—is not risky “if you have put the cart and the horse in the right place.”
“Rather than tell [potential operators] ‘no’ and wait until several years from now when we’re ready to go there, we see it as an opportunity to create additional hubs,” Hixon says.
Even in this economic climate, with financing for new stores still difficult to obtain, Hixon says Mooyah is finding a number of potential operators who’ve already cleared that hurdle.
“We’ve certainly had a number of people approach us, and they’ve got their problems like everybody, but capital isn’t one of them,” Hixon says. “There are a lot of those people out there.”
The better-burger category is especially one that is in hot demand from strong developers, Hixon says, because it is increasingly popular with customers across the country.
But even with strong competitors in the growing category—including chains like Smashburger, Elevation Burger, and The Counter—Hixon is confident that the Mooyah product and service structure will keep it toward the top of the better-burger heap. He also believes the category is not at risk of oversaturation.
“I think you’ll have some clear concepts that capture the No. 1, the No. 2, and the No. 3 spot, and then you’ll have some regionally based powerhouse players, and most everybody else falls out,” he says. “And we’ve seen that happen now to numerous segments throughout history.”
By Sam Oches