In the franchise industry, a strong partnership between franchisor and franchisee is the key to long-term success. A franchisor cannot grow and be successful without the hard work and dedication of franchisees, and a franchisee cannot improve its unit-level economics without the guidance and support of the franchisor.
Anand Gala is a firm subscriber and evangelist to this belief. Over the last three decades, Gala – who serves as the Managing Partner of Gala Capital Partners, LLC – has found success with numerous restaurants concepts across a variety of franchise brands including Applebee's, Jack in The Box and Del Taco. Today, the firm owns and operates the largest Famous Dave’s of America, Inc. franchisee, while also serving on the company’s Board of Directors – a solid example of marrying and driving alignment of the goals of franchisee and the franchisor.
“Early in my life, I witnessed and experienced the hard work that goes into running a successful franchise restaurant while working in and watching my parents operate and grow their Jack in the Box franchise locations,” said Gala. “I was able to learn the hard work, passion and dedication required to make it in the industry, and that has led to the success of our business over the last 35 years.”
As Gala looked into his future, he increasingly became interested in the possibility of bringing his years of operations and development expertise, relationships and experiences in scaling brands to an emerging franchise concept poised to make a leap to the next level under his guidance.
While Gala was building his franchise portfolio and operating locations across the western United States, a better burger brand out of Dallas, Texas was gaining steam in a hot but crowded segment. While Five Guys had kicked the doors down and led to a revolution in the burger industry, MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes – the brainchild of longtime restaurant industry veterans Rich Hicks and Todd Istre – was finding success and gaining strong customer loyalty behind a commitment to customization, quality, and a welcoming family-friendly atmosphere. Founded in 2007, MOOYAH established a firm presence in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area and began to expand throughout Texas over the course of its first five years before adding locations nationwide, from California to Connecticut. As the brand got deeper into its second five years, Hicks began to turn his focus to additional emerging concepts under his Reach Restaurant Group and handed the MOOYAH keys to his longtime friend, and MOOYAH chief operating officer, Michael Mabry.
Mabry, a former restaurant operator himself who joined MOOYAH first as the head of franchise development during its early years, understood the importance of solid operations within the four walls of each franchisee’s location and the impact of each franchisee on the success of the overall brand. Under Mabry’s leadership, the brand recommitted to providing a second-to-none guest experience, which spurred growth throughout the system in 19 states and across ten countries.
It was around this time that Mabry met Gala.
The two came to realize that they shared a franchisee-first philosophy and a vision for intelligent growth behind franchisees committed to the culture and model. Four years later, Gala has decided to bring that philosophy to MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes as the new owner in an acquisition of the better burger brand.
Gala recently purchased MOOYAH with funding from Balmoral Funds LLC. Gala and Balmoral, a leading lower-middle-market private equity firm, had been discussing investments in the restaurant space for some time but needed the right fit to make it work. The deal was initiated by Mabry and the sale was driven by Michael Morales, chief financial officer of Reach Restaurant Group. Morales brokered the deal with the teams from Balmoral and Gala Capital during the first quarter of 2017. He will remain to oversee the transition for the first month before assuming CFO duties at Reach Restaurant Group.
Gala recognized the unique opportunity MOOYAH presented.
“After meeting Michael Mabry and learning about the talent of the leadership team and growth strategy in place, I knew that I had found a brand with the right ingredients for stronger growth and success,” said Gala. “The Balmoral team and I agreed that MOOYAH has the potential to be an even better company with our investment of capital, expertise and resources.”
The acquisition comes as MOOYAH celebrates its tenth anniversary and the announcement was made on April 17 at the company’s annual MOO Con convention held in New Orleans. Gala attended the conference to meet team members, learn more from the franchisees in the system, and discuss the shared vision for success. Gala and his team will spend time with the MOOYAH corporate team to identify areas for improvement and develop a five-year plan to bolster same store sales growth, grow current AUV’s and revenue at existing franchise locations and lay out a strategic vision for franchise expansion. Members of the Balmoral and Gala Capital teams will join the Board of Directors and participate as needed but the majority of the MOOYAH management team is staying with the brand in their capacities and will be focused on its growth and success as part of the vision to continue the brand’s strong trajectory and momentum.
“As a franchise system, my belief is that we truly are servant leaders for our franchisees. Our franchisees deserve full engagement from all levels of the franchisor system. With this acquisition, they are going to get that. Anand has been a franchisee. He’s walked a mile in their shoes and is still doing it today. So, his perspective comes from that of a franchisee, and that understanding is invaluable to a franchisee and to the brand as we look toward the next ten years,” said Mabry.