Editor's note: This is the first of a recurring series that features interviews with top-level execs in the fast casual industry. If you would like to us to feature a specific exec, please make your request in an email to Cherryh Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The recession hasn't been an issue for MOOYAH Burgers, Fries, & Shakes, a fast casual concept based in Texas that plays in the "better burger" space. The chain, named No. 12 on last year's FastCasual.com Top 100 of Movers and Shakers, has doubled in size this year, reaching more than 50 units.
This growth can be attributed to its founders and executives, who understood early on that customer purchase power is king with today's consumer. Alan Hixon, the chain's president, and the other execs embraced this trend, attracting new and current customers by giving them high-quality products and customizable options.
Hixon discussed the brand's strategy with Fastcasual.com.
Q: While many restaurants struggled through the recession, MOOYAH has grown. What has been the key factor that's led to that growth?
Hixon: Our brand is a fun, quality-focused concept that delivers great value on a variety of fronts. As people become more conscientious about where they spend their money, we believe our core principles of offering value and quality elevates the brand to attract and retain guests as well as potential franchisees. There's a lot of interest in MOOYAH right now as a franchise because the better burger category gives people the opportunity to get in on the ground floor with a company with superior product and poised for rapid growth.
Q: What is one thing you wished someone would have told you before you launched the chain?
Hixon: All of the things we face today are similar challenges to what the restaurant industry has faced throughout time. For instance, finding good people, the right real estate and rising food costs. The key to overcoming those challenges is believing in your product and finding new and innovative solutions. We are eternally optimistic and truly believe in the MOOYAH concept and mission.
Q: MOOYAH has been on the cutting edge when it comes to technology. For example, you have kiosks and a mobile app. How has this innovation led to the chain's success?
Hixon: In addition to being a heck of a lot of fun, we feel it is a requirement in the world we live in today. Technology is increasing at an incredible rate and embracing changes in technology is key to running a successful business. You have to not only remain relevant, but constantly be looking to the next opportunity. Whether it's our ordering kiosks or mobile app, part of the MOOYAH model is dedicated to innovation, and we expect to further make technology enhancements in the future.
Q: What is your future growth plan? Do you expect to eventually be across the entire country? Will you franchise outside the U.S.?
Hixon: 2012 was a great year for us, as we doubled our system by reaching 50-plus units. In 2013, MOOYAH is already teed up to have another huge year. We have branched out into a number of new markets over the past year, and have plans to continue growth by entering into new markets within Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Virginia and many others going forward. We are well are on our way to covering the entire country and have even completed international deals in Latin America and the Middle East.
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Cherryh Butler has been a reporter and editor for nearly 15 years, writing on a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining Networld Media Group as managing editor of Food/Retail Publications, she was content specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City and has served as editor for several publications. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.