Andy’s Burgers, Shakes & Fries is about to cross state lines.

The Goldsboro, North Carolina-based casual dining company has 98 locations throughout its home state — 48 corporately owned and 50 franchised, and founder and president Kenney Moore says it’s time to grow even more.

Moore established Andy’s Burgers in 1991, just after he was fired from his position as a district manager of a restaurant chain. Aged 28, with an 18-month-old baby (the eponymous Andy), and just $500 in his pocket, he set up the business then abruptly turned it around after his first year in business.

At the end of that year, Moore was more than $30,000 behind in paying his food bills. Not willing to let this deter him, he decided to change his management style and focus on tomorrow instead of today.

Now Andy’s Burgers, Shakes & Fries is on track to see sales of around $50 million this year but Moore is anything but complacent. He talks to RMGT about how he turned his company around and why his management style has worked.

How did you save your company from failure through your unique management style?

One night I was driving home and I realized I was just worried about me and I realized I needed to make this about other people. I decided to try and make other people successful first – I was going to meet their needs before mine. In another six months we were in the black.

I had four restaurants off the bat and I turned three of them into franchises. I allowed my managers to open their own franchises and now we have over 30 former workers – including servers — who have their own stores.

The right person works better with responsibility. I can’t force anyone to be successful. If it’s the right person they will share the values of what we stand for – of putting people first and working by example.

These are people who believe in the same values as me. They’re still here and the others are gone. The servant leader mentality that we have has served us well.

Franchising was costly but I knew it was an investment in the future. In some cases I sold restaurants to franchisors for less than I’d paid for them but these people will be paying me a royalty fee for as long as they are in business. I’ve always been a guy who looks at the outcome, not the income. It’s income forever vs. a little extra today.

What do you look for in your franchisees and how has it helped your company flourish?

Attitude, work ethic, passion. I don’t expect other people to share my obsession but I want them to have the passion. If hard work bothers you, then you don’t need to do this for a living.

Every person who comes onboard to purchase a franchise spends 30 to 60 minutes with me one-on-one. I don’t care what their bank statement says; I don’t care how they manage revenue. It’s about values. Just a few key questions tell me where their minds are and most importantly where their hearts are. I can teach them all the important aspects of the business but I can’t teach them heart.

These people are working for their own business and they will work hard for that because they know that everything is totally dependent on them. They know that the restaurant’s success affects their bottom line and everyone’s who works for them. They have an incentive to do well.

What are your plans for expanding through a franchise network?

We are enlisted in 12 states where we are actively seeking franchises. That sounds aggressive and it is, but we feel that after the past two years, with the economy, we’ve gotten a lot better. We are totally unafraid to expand beyond our borders – through the whole Southeast. We’ve finally got all our ducks in a row.

Do you have any concerns about expanding further afield?

Yes. I won’t know all the people owning my restaurants. We will find as many ways as we can to communicate and know each other. I can’t expect an owner to care unless they know how much as I care and they can’t expect their staff to care until they care.

I’ll work with the growing number of stores through constant communication and whatever I can think of to continue to preach our values. I’ve been doing managers’ meetings for 20 years. I started off with three people in there. The message hasn’t changed a lot. The delivery message has and the messager is a little grayer, but the message won’t change in the next 20 years

I’m also worried about losing our values (extending yourself for others and meeting the needs of others before yourself) and our character. But if I saw that happen, I’d sell the company and walk off into the sunset.

We have everyone who works for us (franchisees, servers, etc.) fill in a personality test online to rate their personality against others and rate their values. So we’re pretty dialed in to make sure we pick people with the right values. The very close relationship I have now with franchisees will become less [as we expand] but we’ll retain it as much as we can with retreats, me being on the road more, and so on.

The night before we open a location, I talk to all the staff and I cook for them. It gives me a chance to give them some history, to share and to serve them – the newest people in Andy’s family. I make sure everyone eats before I sit down and eat. It sends a subtle message I think.

Why are some stores corporately owned and some franchises?

Of our 98 stores, 48 are corporate owned. The franchise stores have a tendency to have slightly better sales. We’ve really had to learn to run 48 stores. Before we roll something out to the franchisees we test it in our corporate stores.

I think it’s important that I own a lot of restaurants. If I’m only a franchisor I’m just getting paid royalty fees and you’re only looking at the top-line. But by owning stores you find ways to drive the bottom line and find new things to do. So when they write you that royalty fee, franchisors are tickled because I’m doing the same thing they’re doing.

We can give them other ideas on how to lower their food costs. One example is we instigated an inventory system in the corporate stores that I then rolled out to all of my stores.

Why is now the time to expand?

We have a store outside Charlotte (North Carolina) in Locust that is a long way from any of our other stores and it did so well that it proved we could do it. I think I just wanted to try this and see what our concept’s made of.

It’s also a great time. There are some high quality individuals out there that have been laid off in the past two years who just want a chance.

And lastly, because there’s no time like the present.

By Amanda Baltazar

Industry News, Labor & Employees, Leader Insights, NextGen Casual, Philanthropy, Andy's Burgers, Shakes & Fries