March 21, 2016 | by Cherryh Cansler

Editor's note: This is the third of 12 articles, publishing on a monthly basis, that will focus on a specific franchise. If you think your franchise should be featured, email Cherryh at Cherryhc@NetWorldMediaGroup.

It's not very common for a family business to become a national chain, and it's even more rare for the same family to help transform into a multiple-unit success story. Ye that's exactly what happened, however, with HuHot Mongolian Grill, founded by Daniel and Linda Vap in 1999. Although Daniel passed away in 2014, Linda, and her son, Andy, still own the original location. The chain has grown to nearly 60 units in 16 states partly because every business decision is made with the success of the franchisees in mind, said Laura Sporrer, director of franchise development.

"Unlike many companies and concepts, HuHot isn't susceptible to gimmicks you often see when companies have taken on too much debt or are trying to make a push for shareholders," she said.

HuHot's AUV's are $1.74 million, and the goal for next year is to improve same-store sales by 2 percent. System growth should be much stronger than that, according to Sporrer, who said the chain has received more franchise interest than ever before and is also investing in the number of its corporate locations.

"The growth plan for HuHot has always been one of steady and strategic growth. The model has always been, ‘do it right,' Sporrer said. "We will continue this trend." 

What it takes to be a franchisee

The initial costs of becoming a franchisee, including franchise fees, training and restaurant build-out, range between $777,000 and $977,000. The current franchise fee is $35,000, ongoing royalties are 5 percent of gross sales, and a required marketing fund contribution of 0.5 percent of gross sales.

"HuHot's is a franchise that offers fast, fresh food that can accommodate allergies, picky eaters, and healthy hunters," Sporrer said, noting the franchise is adept at easily adapting to changing trends.

"People can create their meals and customize a delicious dish that works for them, and as dietary trends change, so can the meals that people create for themselves. HuHot provides individuals with a dining experience. As customers want to go to places that offer a unique experience and dining as entertainment, HuHot accomplishes that." 

Sporrer added that operating a HuHot is much easier than a full-service restaurant since the concept is built with ease of operation in mind.

"If people don't have a lot of restaurant experience, this is a perfect place for them to start. If people have been in the restaurant industry for a long time, they'll especially appreciate the ease of operations," she said.

HuHot franchisee Jay Warwick, a 1988 Olympic bronze-medalist in taekwondo, agreed, explaining he chose to open his first unit in 2010 as he understands value and health are an important value proposition for diners.

"HuHot is always fresh, always the way you want it and always unlimited," said Warwick, who owns five locations and plans to open a sixth before year's end. "We are also a family favorite destination as kids of all ages love HuHot."

Topics: Franchising Focus, Franchising & Growth

Cherryh Cansler
Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for wwwView Cherryh Cansler's profile on LinkedIn

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