If founders, chefs and other creatives are the beating heart of the restaurant industry, then franchisees are the veins delivering their ideas to all corners of the globe. Franchising is critical to the success of the industry, allowing brands to quickly scale their big ideas using other people’s capital. And whether it’s a mom-and-pop restaurant owner with one or two franchised restaurants or a seasoned veteran whose influence in the industry is well-known, franchisees — with all their individual attributes, styles and personalities — make a huge impact on the success of a business.
In this week’s installment of Franchisee Spotlight, we spoke with former NFL offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy, who used to play for the Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders and now as a retired athlete owns two Angry Crab Shack restaurants. Kennedy is one of many former NFL players who have made the switch to restaurant franchising after retirement. We spoke about his journey from football to franchising and goals for the future.
Two Angry Crab Shack restaurants in Arizona and Nevada
From football to franchising
My restaurant experiences started many years ago. When I first went into the NFL during my first marriage, we had an Italian restaurant in Atlanta, and we had bought the previous owner out and it didn’t go well… I have had other opportunities, like Subway and Blimpie franchises back in the day.
The birth of Angry Crab Shack
I moved to Phoenix about eight years ago, right after my son was born, and I met Ron Lou [the founder of Angry Crab Shack and former NFL player] while I was the chapter president for the retired NFL Players Association. We had our meetings at Ron's old seafood restaurant…Then, Ron told us about wanting to expand his restaurant business, and he got a few of us together and I said, “let’s do this, let's take a chance.” And lo and behold, we realized after not too short of a time [of building Angry Crab Shack] that people in Arizona loved the type of seafood that we brought, so we grew very quickly… The franchising opportunity came around because Andy Diamond [president and CFO of Angry Crab Shack] and Ron had talked about how we didn't know that it was going to blow up as well as much as it did. The next thing you knew, we were opening restaurants all over the country.
Why the brand was a good fit
My family and I love the food. We saw how many people were into it. I kinda look at it as landlocked states being influenced by fresh seafood—you don’t often get that. You usually have to go to the coasts…. We blew up so much here in Phoenix that when they talked about expanding, and we talked about franchising opportunities, I was like, “You know what, let's jump in, let's take a chance.” We got into it thinking of expanding as well.
Charitable components of franchising
I've always been a big believer in community support. So now with the affiliation with food, and having a restaurant business, it made sense to increase the charitable division of Angry Crab Shack. So, I'm a big proponent of pushing that with all of our franchise owners, and in being involved in promoting opportunities for our neighborhoods.
Teamwork from the field to the franchise
The great thing about owning a business is having the ability to create a team that's functional and profitable…. When you when you play on a team, you have to perform, and you have to be accountable. The same thing goes with any type of business ownership, and more importantly, you're evaluated for that performance. Our performance is settled by not only making money, but more importantly, having an experience that people enjoy. That’s what Angry Crab has always been about…. When you walk into an Angry Crab Shack, and you say I want a pound of crab legs, that's what you get. You get a pound of crab. We're not giving you rice, we're not giving you sides, unless you order them. if you want that you can order it, but giving you exactly what you order keeps our overhead down.
I love being a business owner because I love the reflection that it permits in the community. When people talk about our restaurants, I want them to smile. When they’re like, “Oh, you own an Angry Crab Shack. I love their food,” that lights me up and that's one of the reasons why I jumped to this franchise opportunity because I wanted to spread some of that enjoyment and euphoria around the city. Now that we've taken over Phoenix and Nevada, I want to expand to other states and spread that love as much as I can… We're working on a franchise opportunity in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as well as a franchise opportunity in Texas…. My goal when I first got into franchising was to have four restaurants anywhere in the country that I would visit often. And with my NFL job, I travel quite a bit. So, I wanted to have them in cities that I frequent.