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Meet Cunningham Restaurant Group, the Midwest powerhouse you’ve never heard of

Founder Mike Cunningham shares how this group has grown to 18 concepts with 42 locations across three states.


Mike Cunningham didn’t open a restaurant with the expectations of becoming a major multiunit, multi-concept system. The lifelong foodservice employee simply wanted to open his own restaurant, which he did in 1997 with Boulder Creek in Brownsburg, Ind. But that restaurant was so successful that Cunningham opened another, then another, then another.  

Today, his Indianapolis-based company, Cunningham Restaurant Group, has 42 locations spread across 18 concepts in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. That includes the 15-unit BRU Burger Bar, as well as independents like Vida, Modita, and Theo’s Italian.

Cunningham joined the latest episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches to talk about how his knack for creativity drove him to scaling across so many different concepts and how he’s designing an infrastructure that ensures consistency across the group.

In this conversation, you’ll learn more about:

  • Your first step toward growth is surrounding yourself with people who can help
  • How much you like airplanes may determine your growth strategy
  • The joy of discovery shouldn’t be underestimated in your marketing efforts
  • Simple loyalty programs are not dead
  • Bedroom communities often offer more stable business than city centers
  • Your growth strategy should allow for some flexibility around unique opportunities

Contact Sam Oches at [email protected].

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