Innovative Upstarts Part 4 - Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes shakes up the burger business with a burger for EVERYbody
When Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes opened its flagship location nine years ago in Plano, Texas, it had the audacity to prominently feature a "veggie" burger on its menu made not from the state's sacred beefy bovine but of the lowly black bean. Oh sure, it had those beefy burgers, too, along with turkey burgers, but offering a pure veggie patty in the great state of Cow, is the kind of gutsy move that only a restaurateur who is very sure of himself makes without much thought aside perhaps from asking themselves rhetorically, "What kind of fool WOULDN'T love us and our veggie burger?"
That subject is where we started our conversation with Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes CEO Rich Hicks, who has been sitting in the Mooyah saddle steering the chain through a 31-percent increase in sales last year over 2014.
Q: So back when you launched the first location in Plano, how did folks there respond to featuring a bean-based burger right alongside the meatier varieties?
A: One might think that our black bean veggie burger might be shunned in a state so obsessed with meat, but our guests actually love having a delicious veggie option. Our black bean patty is flavorful and has a bit of a southern kick to it. And our guests can order it on a freshly baked artisan or multigrain bun, or as an Iceburger, … wrapped in crisp iceberg lettuce. With all those options, it’s hard not to want to give our Black Bean Veggie Burger a try.
Q: What do you attribute the majority of the success of this chain to, both at its birth and in the most recent years?
A: Passion and attention to detail have been imperative from the very beginning. Our team has always been obsessed with exceptional food quality and making sure that every guest leaves our restaurant nothing short of satisfied. Each order matters and every interaction is a chance to make a lasting connection. … We are also very fortunate to have a great group of franchise partners. Our brand is only as strong as each of our individual restaurants, so an important key to our success has been to ensure that our brand is growing with the right franchisees.
Q: If you were going to dole out some advice to your fellow older, more traditional burger brands, what would you tell them, if anything?
A: A magician never reveals his secrets, right? To put it very simply, it's important to listen to your guest base. What do they want? What do they need? Often, our guests’ needs and wants change, and it's imperative that we are always listening, watching and giving our consumers exactly what they're looking for.
Building and maintaining relationships with your consumers is an ongoing process and it requires a malleable approach to be able to consistently meet their needs. Today's world is fast-paced and constantly changing. It's important to keep an eye on trends, but it's more important to stay true to your brand's core values. Being genuine as a brand goes a very long way.
Q: What's coming for Mooyah addicts?
A: We just launched our Mooyah rewards app a few months ago and our guests are loving it. They're able to earn points for their purchases and redeem those points for free food. We're able to show our guests just how much we value their loyalty by putting our money where our mouths are.
In addition to our new app, we've been testing new menu items. … We're especially proud of our hand-battered, all-natural chicken and additional premium toppings for our burgers, as well as all-beef hot dogs. There are a few other things I can't yet disclose.
Q: Oh, mysterious. Well then, what's your favorite item on the menu and why?
A: I'd have to go with our hand-cut French fries. Our Idaho potatoes go through a 24-hour, six-step process to become Mooyah fries … brown and crispy on the outside, and fluffy and hot on the inside – can't go wrong with that. Guests tell me frequently that our fries are narcotic and I absolutely agree.
Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of Pizzamarketplace.com and QSRweb.com after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.