Countless brand attributes make WaBa Grill special. From our unique menu that features fresh cuisine, to our acclaimed reputation for tasty food delivered conveniently and quickly, our secret sauce is, well, not so secret. In fact, our brand continues to experience greater customer awareness and appreciation as more guests make WaBa Grill their destination of choice for Asian-inspired flavors.

One of the most important ingredients in our recipe for success isn’t something our customers can taste, nor is it something guests will experience while visiting one of our restaurants.

After more than 30 years in franchise and corporate law, including 15 years supporting various corporate legal and franchising initiatives for WaBa Grill since its inception, I’ve learned countless lessons. The one I’m most passionate about, which has been a business priority since I became president and CEO of WaBa Grill in 2021, is the importance of nurturing the relationships among everyone invested in the brand. From franchisees and cashiers to customers and corporate employees, investing in those who invest in the organization is a practice that’s essential to supporting and maintaining brand growth.

Over the years, in representing many domestic and international franchisors and franchisees as a Certified Legal Specialist in Franchise and Distribution Law, I saw many issues in franchisor-franchisee relationships. The one that was the most common was the lack of commitment from franchisors to supporting and developing franchisees. As WaBa’s top executive, I’ve prioritized comprehensive support initiatives for franchisees to ensure alignment on key functional areas, including operations, marketing, menu innovation and customer service. We’ve raised the bar—along with our standards for franchisee support—and this has helped to sustain our growth. It’s also fueled our growth potential for years to come. WaBa Grill recently inked significant development deals across existing states like California and Arizona, plus new states that include Nevada and Texas.

As we’ve ramped up our commitment to our valued franchisees, we haven’t missed a beat when it comes to delivering for our loyal guests. This includes maintaining the same reputation for high-quality ingredients, freshness, taste, and convenience that WaBa Grill customers have known, enjoyed and loved for more than 15 years.

By investing in those who have invested in us, it should come as no surprise that growth has been a byproduct. In 2022, WaBa Grill recorded a 24-month gain, which was driven by our franchisee support efforts. We experienced increases in same store sales and total system sales, and our development pipeline is thriving today. Ten locations in Dallas-Fort Worth and 13 restaurants in Central California are on the way, and I’m excited to see the fruits of our labor. Even more, I’m immensely proud to see how the WaBa Grill team has fostered healthy relationships with franchisees by increasing support and welcoming feedback.

WaBa Grill is a brand built on healthy cuisine, and with nearly 200 restaurants open, I’m pleased to report that the partnerships we are building with our growing network of dedicated franchisees can be characterized the same way.

What was your first job?

My first job was in junior high as a paperboy delivering newspapers on my bike to homes in Los Angeles. My first restaurant job was as a kitchen assistant at a hamburger joint owned by a friend’s family in high school. Both were exciting and eye-opening experiences.

What’s your favorite menu item at WaBa Grill? 

My go-to is the WaBa Bowl (chicken and ribeye steak combination) with veggies and avocado. It’s a well-balanced, bold-flavored and hearty meal. However, I think that my longstanding loyalty to the WaBa Bowl is going to be tested by our new Asian-inspired Boom Boom Tacos, WaBa’s first handheld grilled-to-order menu item featuring our signature marinated and sauced proteins with flavorful slaw, zesty green onions and topped with a creamy aioli sauce that has a little bit of a kick, all of which is served in a great tasting tortilla! I am truly smitten by our Boom Boom Tacos, and I’m excited that our customers are finally able to try them.

What’s your favorite cuisine aside from WaBa Grill? 

I’d have to say that my favorite cuisine aside from WaBa Grill is Italian. I have always loved pasta and seafood as early as I can remember. 

Who inspires you as a leader?

Two groups of people quickly come to mind. First, our dedicated and hard-working Team Members at WaBa Grill. Second, our wonderful group of WaBa Grill Franchisees. They both embody and reflect commitment, resilience, teamwork, and partnership that motivate and inspire me on a day-to-day basis.

What’s the best piece of advice that other restaurant executives should hear?

I’m a firm believer that we’re all in the people business and that a business will be in good hands if the people working there will be challenged to contribute and to grow professionally while being supported and nurtured along the way. 

What are some of your interests outside of work?

I love golf and basketball, but my newest—and most exciting interest—would be my first grandchild!

Fast Casual, Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs, Story, Waba Grill