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Eggs Up Grill CEO Ricky Richardson makes it a point to note the company’s focus has remained the same: approachable food and authentic people.

Eggs Up Grill’s growth drivers: Accessible food and franchisees who started as guests

The restaurant company began franchising 20 years ago but put new systems and processes in place in 2018 that have driven recent expansion.

The breakfast daypart is having quite a moment of late, especially as the consumer environment has normalized. For Spartanburg, S.C.-based Eggs Up Grill, this has led to a staggering growth trajectory generating a 25.2% increase in sales from 2022 to 2023 and a 20.3% increase in unit count over the same period. Those are some pretty impressive numbers considering the brand has been around since 1997 and began franchising 20 years ago.

But Eggs Up Grill’s recent surge can be explained by more than just consumer demand. The company was bought by PE firm WJ Partners in 2018 and brought Ricky Richardson on as CEO. With new leadership in place, the company was able to create systems and processes that otherwise didn’t fully exist.

“Like a lot of entrepreneurial-led companies, there was little structure and very little resources. The reputation was there, but we had to invest in those resources and structures to get to our shared vision about the brand’s future opportunities,” Richardson said during a recent interview. “So, we put on paper what the brand’s DNA is and then started building out resources to help our franchise partners.”

That DNA is simple: “We want to make you smile.” And those resources include everything from marketing to operational execution, and they are especially critical as about 70% of the company’s franchisees have no prior restaurant experience. At the time Richardson came on board, there were 26 locations. He expects to be just under 100 units by the end of this year. Further, average unit volumes were around $900,000 pre-Covid, and the company ended 2023 with AUVs just under $1.3 million.

Despite the added resources and units, Richardson makes it a point to note the company’s focus has remained the same: approachable food and authentic people.

“We sell an all-American breakfast tailored to our guests’ request. This isn’t about a flavor adventure or trying something you’ve never heard of. It’s accessible, high-quality food,” he said. “But our real differentiator is our people, our franchise partners. There’s a sincerity there that I found unique even after being in the industry my whole career.”

That’s because most operate just one or two locations and most started as guests, he adds. This means they buy into the brand and it’s why the company doesn’t push big marketing campaigns, but rather zooms in on local outreach. The franchisees, Richardson said, are the most effective marketing tool.

The goal is to maintain this strategy — the focus on food, people — as Eggs Up Grill continues to grow. It’s an ambitious goal given the company’s ambitious targets; Richardson wants to continue at a 25%-35% annual pace for unit openings.

“We doubled our team in the past year to accelerate. The year before last, we opened 12 restaurants and we doubled it this year,” he said. “I don’t have a hard number in mind, but I can see an easy way of getting to 500-600 in the not-so-distant future.”

Driving the optimism isn’t just a more robust team working with more refined systems and processes, but also a wildly popular category with “a lot of opportunity and white space.” Indeed, there is plenty of activity in the “better breakfast” space, with fellow concepts growing at a rapid clip as well, including the public First Watch. Richardson likes being part of such a top-of-mind category and believes his concept is especially well positioned amid more competition.

“What’s unique to us is our breadth of consumer appeal complemented by the products and price point we offer,” he said. “Our franchisees are committed, too, with direct personal and financial connections to the brand. That’s tough to replicate.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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