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Andy’s is ready to rock n’ roll into Georgia, Texas and Florida!
Today's Restaurant Florida Edition
Thursday, 01 December 2011 10:44

Andys_FL1Mount Olive, NC - It was 1992 and Kenny Moore was making the 30-minute drive home after putting in another 12-hour day at Andy’s, the North Carolina burger chain he had founded the year before at just age 28.

He had four stores. Three were losing money. He was more than $30,000 behind in paying his food bills. Moore knew he couldn’t work any harder, but he also had no answers for turning things around.

“The sky didn’t suddenly open, but I had this clear thought that I was doing it all wrong,” Moore recalled. “I was only focusing on myself and my problems. I wasn’t thinking about the people busting their tails for me every day. I made a mental shift on the way home that night. I’ll never forget it. I told myself it was no longer going to be about me.”

Moore made an about-face in his management style: He decided to meet the needs of others before his own. It’s known as the philosophy of “servant leadership.”

“When I started doing that, Andy’s started to turn around,” Moore said. “We started to become very successful.”

Today, Andy’s Burgers, Shakes & Fries – which celebrated its 20th anniversary this past March – has 100 stores in North Carolina and enjoyed systemwide sales of approximately $50 million in 2010.

Andy’s is known statewide for its famous Cheeseburgers, casual ’50s-style diner setting, family atmosphere and first-class customer service that extends to greeting customers as they walk in the door. Now, with the recent launching of an expanded franchising program, Andy’s is looking to grow beyond its state boundaries for the first time.

Andy’s expects to open a combination of 10 to 15 franchised and company-owned locations in 2011, with initial franchising efforts targeted at the southeastern states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Texas, Florida and Kentucky. By the end of 2014, the 48-year-old Moore envisions up to 500 Andy’s across the country.

The “better burger” niche is among the fastest growing in the restaurant industry, yet still has plenty of room for expansion. Moore definitely sees room for Andy’s. Another big advantage: Andy’s offers a fast-casual price point – the average per-person bill is $6 – in a full-service environment.

“I wouldn’t be worth my salt if I didn’t tell you that I think we’re a lot better than some of these other people that have had tremendous success,” Moore said. “I feel like we’re uniquely positioned where we are and I think it’s time to start sharing Andy’s with everybody.”

About half of Andy’s 100 stores – almost all of which are located in the eastern portion of North Carolina – are corporate-owned. The remaining stores are operated through what Moore called an “in-house” franchising program, a precursor to its present franchising initiative. Many of those store owners rose through the ranks of Andy’s.

“We’ve produced more than 30 entrepreneurs,” Moore said. “We have former minimum-wage cooks and wait staff members who now own their own businesses.”

Having started Andy’s with $500 to his name, Moore is seeking franchisees who are a dedicated lot, looking to control their own destiny while building an organization consumed by a passion for serving people… that idea of servant leadership.

An engaging, high-energy individual who was once an All American baseball player in college, Moore hasn’t led Andy’s to success from a corner office. He has gotten his hands dirty like every other prospective franchise owner. He owns 51 Andy’s restaurants himself.

“I have done everything out there that I am asking these folks to do,” Moore said. “I have done every job, including the disgusting ones. I’ve been on their side. I know their fear and trepidation and I want to alleviate as much of that as I possibly can to help them become successful.”

As Andy’s expands, it won’t take long for newcomers to learn why customers flock to the stores when they have a taste for American classics and the sounds of old-time rock n’ roll. Besides the famous Andy’s Cheeseburger – 5 1/2 ounces, never-frozen, hand-pattied and served on a steamed bun – the menu includes Andy’s famous frozen custard, mouth-watering Cheesesteak, Blue Plate Specials such as Andy’s Shrimp Burger (served with ketchup and slaw on a steaming bun) and Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich, delicious hot wings, fresh-squeezed Lemonade and Orangeade and much more.

Andy’s is the second-largest restaurant group selling frozen custard in the United States. The highly popular flavors of the day – many of which are concocted by some of Andy’s teen-age employees – include Cinnamon Bun, which is made with actual pieces of cinnamon bun. Frozen custard is made fresh daily in each store and is Andy’s third-best-selling menu item.

“We spent about $2 million to roll it out a few years ago and it now represents about eight percent of sales,” Moore said. “Our ice cream sales are phenomenal. But that’s just one part of it. You couple that with a hand-pattied burger, music playing, a full-service, smiling wait staff that greets you at the door when they can and cooks singing on the cook line. People are having a good time. You’ve got a unique atmosphere without a lot of competition.”

Moore has already had a sneak preview of the success Andy’s will find as it expands outside its home base of eastern North Carolina. A store that opened in Locust – just outside Charlotte – is a three-hour drive from Andy’s “power base,” It opened in December 2010 and became the chain’s top-performing store and maintains that spot today, setting record sales marks.

With training, marketing and operations programs finely tuned for growth, Moore is well prepared to begin the next chapter in Andy’s history.

“We’ve been building a runway for 20 years. Now we’re getting ready to take off,” he said.