Wild Eggs, a Louisville, Kentucky-based contemporary brunch concept, hatched in 2007 on the premise of delivering home-cooked meals with a twist. Founders JD Rothberg and Shane Hall noticed a swift uptick in the brunch category, populated by concepts like First Watch and The Toasted Yolk Cafe. However, they wanted to level up brunch in a wildly creative way. Rothberg was also inspired by his great grandfather, a farmer, who had a knack for big, bold breakfasts every morning.
“Back in 2007, [the founders] wanted to create a fine-dining experience but for breakfast,” says Andy Abbajay, current CEO. “They wanted it to be special from a food standpoint, but also from the guest experience side.”
Guests at Wild Eggs can build a four-egg omelet or scramble, or choose from the expansive menu of pancakes, sandwiches, salads, and more. House-made cinnamon rolls and breakfast burritos pepper the menu as well, along with decadent limited-time offerings made with locally sourced ingredients. An alternate gluten-free menu ensures a seat at the table for all customers.
Co-founders: JD Rothberg, Shane Hall
HQ: Louisville, Kentucky
Cuisine Type: Contemporary brunch
Fresh juices are squeezed in-house daily, and the extensive beverage offerings include pomegranate mimosas and Bluegrass Sunrise, a cranberry and lemonade drink mixed with Buffalo Trace bourbon.
Abbajay believes the secret to Wild Eggs’ success is its creative, chef-driven options, authentic espresso bar, and the dedication to preserving heritage through food. Years of research went into the concept before it officially opened, and it paid off. “People absolutely adore the food,” Abbajay says. “It is the thing that consistently brings people back … We know this from our customer feedback and market research; the food is the biggest thing that stands out.”
The brand has expanded out of Louisville, focusing on strengthening awareness within a 200-mile radius. Growth has remained steady in recent years by adding locations in Cincinnati and Indianapolis and bringing on a few early franchisees.
In January, private equity firm PG Growth Opportunities Fund bought the company from Patoka Capital. Wild Eggs currently stands at 15 locations and 400 employees, with hopes to go national. PG Growth Opportunities Fund is spearheaded by Abbajay, along with fellow restaurant executives Cliff Harris and George Wooten. Their vision is to continue expanding within the food and beverage spaces.
The newly announced franchise program, which debuted in July, is looking for dedicated restaurateurs who want to join a tight-knit family. In his 35 years of helping franchises grow, Abbajay believes Wild Eggs gives franchisees every opportunity to be profitable and enjoy what they are doing.
“[The perfect franchisee] has strong economics, a compelling story, and they have to invest in something they enjoy … and there’s nothing better than our food,” Abbajay says.
Wild Eggs offers potential franchisees a compelling model, an extensive support program, and most importantly, a solid work-life balance. Stores are closed by 2:30 p.m., typically unheard of in the industry. Abbajay says this emphasis on quality of life makes an enormous difference in the level of engagement and employee retention.
Abbajay worked on the franchise initiative from scratch, focusing on streamlining support operations and tech stacks. The 12-week training program walks franchisees through the entire process, from signing to grand opening. It covers ongoing training in finance, food safety, and bringing in the right team members.
Wild Eggs has partnered with tech companies Tattle and Bites, among others, to help operators with consumer metrics and monitoring guest experiences. Tattle is an AI-driven platform that provides data-driven insights in an actionable manner.
The company has also joined Bites, a training prep platform that can “cut the time it takes to train restaurant employees in half,” according to its website. The short, engaging training videos can aid in menu training, new hire onboarding, and kitchen protocols.
“The technology and ongoing support are points of differentiation when people are looking to get into franchising,” Abbajay says. “We’ve got all the right tools, and we’re really excited.”
Within a few weeks of the franchise website launching, almost 10,000 potential franchisees visited the page, making Abbajay optimistic about the future of Wild Eggs.
Of the 50-unit goal Abbajay wants to hit this year, he wants 35 to be franchised locations and 15 to be company stores.
This mix allows the company to build right alongside the franchisees in frontier markets like Nashville, Tennessee. It builds brand awareness, creates greater points of distribution, and allows for a greater amount of success for both the brand and the franchisee.
“We should take every decision that we do from a collaborative approach,” Abbajay says. “When we’re candid and working together, it creates a perfect franchise … all of that builds trust with each other.”
Target locations include Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and West Virginia. These markets have a lack of breakfast-lunch concepts, Abbajay states. They also lend themselves to a good distribution system that helps ensure products are delivered promptly.
A franchisee in Lexington, Kentucky—who has not grown for the last 10 years—is close to signing a four-unit development, which speaks volumes about the excitement surrounding the new franchise program, according to Abbajay.
“There’s plenty of room for us to grow,” Abbajay says. “We don’t need to be everywhere; we’re remaining cautious, but our brand awareness will help the company and our new franchise partners share the most success.”