Being an emerging restaurant operator is a challenge just to even get your foot in the door, but Gregg Majewski — former Jimmy John’s CEO and current CEO of Mongolian Concepts — wants to support a select portfolio of small restaurant brands both financially and operationally with the newly formed Craveworthy Restaurant Group.
We spoke with Majewski at the recent NAFEM conference in Orlando, Fla. about his goals for Craveworthy’s brands, which include Chicago-based Budlong Hot Chicken and Krafted Burger + Tap, Raleigh, N.C.-based Wing it On, and newly formed concept, the Lucky Cat Poke Company, which will initially expand through a network of 50+ ghost kitchens.
“The idea behind Craveworthy was to empower and give back to emerging brands,” Majewski said. “Emerging brands never have the same playing field [as established chains] -- there was always an uphill climb. And you either had to someone to be an angel investor or just get lucky. I wanted to create a system that allowed us to give great brands that should be available across the country the opportunity to grow.”
The Craveworthy portfolio is varied, but as the name implies, they each encourage customers to take another bite and come back and visit again, Majewski said. Lucky Cat and Krafted were both concepts they created from scratch while Budlong and Wing It On were acquisitions with more locations to start off with at four units and 13 units, respectively. Majewski sees himself and his team as somewhere at the intersection of developer, incubator, and investor.
“If we don't operate them ourselves, then we can't be successful,” he said. “We will always operate about 10% of stores. I can't stand when franchise companies have one corporate store and then you try to tell franchisees what to do. You have to live it and breathe it if you're going to be successful.”
Another unique part of the Craveworthy formula will be its synergy with Mongolian Concepts, which owns legacy brands, Genghis Grill, Bd's Mongolian Grill, and Flat Top Grill. Majewski thinks both companies can benefit from a financial and operational boost.
“There is going to be a lot of synergy between the two companies,” he said. “We’re trying to grow both as fast as we can. Genghis had not opened a store since 2011, and our first year back selling we sold 24, so we’re excited about both.”
Moving forward, Majewski said they will be kicking off a franchise program for Budlong, and are also looking to acquire additional starter or mid-level concepts that fit well within the portfolio.
“We’re looking forward to being a household name and putting ourselves on the map,” he said. “The goal is to create a franchise company where our franchisees don't ever have to leave us because they can grow with 5-7 brands and open 50-60 stores without ever having to worry about needing to move to California or New York because there’s no room for expansion. They can grow with us as we bring in new brands.”
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