By Barbara L. Vergetis Lundin, Assistant Editor
Co-founded by Rich Hicks in 2007, the first Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes opened in 2007. Since 2014, the brand has been aggressively expanding nationally and internationally.
At 15, Hicks was cleaning tables and washing dishes. At 25, he was one of the youngest area directors for Brinker International’s Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Hicks served as general manager and multi-area director responsible for opening new Romano’s Macaroni Grill locations – eventually overseeing more than 10 Macaroni Grills.
Mooyah has garnered many industry accolades. Among them, in 2009, Mooyah took No. 1 on Fast Casual’s annual Top 100 Movers & Shakers (and has ranked in the top 50 every year since); in 2014, the restaurant was named in Entrepreneur Magazine's list of the top 500 franchise brands; and has made its way onto the list of the Top 10 Fast Casual Growth Chains by Technomic, Inc.
Q&A with Rich Hicks, Co-founder and CEO of Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes
Foodable: How are you growing and keeping your business competitive?
Rich Hicks: We are always listening to our guests and we are genuinely focused on their feedback. We find that as long as we are open to feedback, our guests will let us know what they want. In order to meet our guests’ needs and stay ahead of our competition, we are constantly sharpening every facet of our business. In the coming months, our brand will be rolling out a new menu that not only highlights new food items, but also launches a new level of hospitality training to team members. Our team members love their jobs and their guests, and this new program gives them the opportunity to express that and really exude that passion to the guest.
We also recently launched a rewards app that is fully integrated with our point of sale system. This app allows us to show our appreciation to guests for their continued loyalty, and it gives us a chance to reach our faithful fans like never before. The Mooyah Rewards App gives us an advantage over our competitors who aren’t able to reward their loyal fans.
Foodable: To what do you attribute the longevity and success of Mooyah?
RH: Our franchise partners. A franchise brand is nothing without its franchisees, so we have made sure to always keep our partners’ best interests at the forefront of our decision-making. We consider them our guests, and we consider their feedback just as important as the feedback from those dining in our restaurants. Open communication and transparency have also been imperative to our current and ongoing success.
Foodable: To what do you attribute your own personal longevity and success in the industry?
RH: I love people and I love food. Those two loves make working in this industry not feel like work. I’m also a competitive person, and as we all know, our business is fiercely competitive. All the other great restaurant brands drive me to always be striving to be better.
Foodable: What are you seeing on the horizon in terms of the burger business?
RH: Innovation and uniqueness are very hot right now in the burger business. Customers want a unique, memorable experience that they can’t rival at home. Elevated ingredient options and a fully fun, attentive experience are now regularly expected by consumers, so I can only imagine that this will continue to evolve in coming months. Brands will have to continue to develop and innovate their products, and I am excited to see what the outcome shapes out to be for the consumer.
Foodable: What are your top three pieces of advice for a young person wanting to start up in the restaurant business?
1. Choose a brand that you love as a guest and that has a solid training program.
2. Throw yourself into as many team member positions as possible. Walking a mile in the shoes of every role goes a long way in our business.
3. Make work like play and then play like hell.
Foodable: What is the most impactful lesson you have learned throughout your career? What made such an impact?
RH: I learned early that assembling the right team is extremely important. I have created a few brands over the years and have seen personally that surrounding myself with people that will support me in areas that are not my expertise is critical.
Foodable: What has been the highlight of your career?
RH: This is a tough one for me. I have had many highlights over the years and, candidly, don't spend a lot of time thinking about those. I spend most of my time thinking about how to compete and get better every day.
Foodable: What is next on the horizon for Mooyah?
RH: We will be opening our 100th location this summer, and everyone on the team is very excited and proud of this milestone. As I mentioned before, we plan on rolling out our new menu to all of our U.S. locations in the next six months, and we know our guests will love the new additions. This past year has also been heavily focused on technological innovations both in and outside of our restaurants. We have a newly redesigned mobile-responsive website, a fully-integrated rewards app and online ordering experience,
Foodable: Any parting thoughts?
RH: I am extremely proud of the growth that Mooyah has experienced over the last nine years. We would not be where we are today without committed franchisees and a corporate support team that strives to be better today than we were yesterday and even better tomorrow than we are today.