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Young Ones to Watch: Jonathan Weathington, CEO of Shuckin' Shack

1851 Franchise interviewed the young executive about how he got into franchising, what advice he has for up-and-coming business owners and more.

Jonathan Weathington has been in franchising for his entire professional career, but the Shuckin’ Shack CEO has come a long way since his first job in the industry as a packager and customer service associate at PostNet. Today, the 36-year-old executive leads a 15-unit franchise that some industry insiders say could represent the future of full-service dining. 

We spoke with Weathington about what he loves about the franchise industry and how the restaurant industry has adapted to the coronavirus crisis. 

1851 Franchise: How did you get into franchising? 

Jonathan Weathington: My first official job was as a seasonal packager and customer service associate at PostNet. I worked for the local franchisee in Lumberton, North Carolina. Funny story — I actually got randomly paired with [PostNet Co-founder and former CEO] Steve Greenbaum at an IFA roundtable last year. We laughed about him being the reason I was in franchising. I got into the franchisor side because I knew the founders of Shuckin' Shack. When they went to expand back in 2014, they gave me a call and asked me to come on board. 

1851: What do you love about the industry? 

Weathington: I love that no one is in it alone. On the franchisee side, you have the support, knowledge, expertise and proven model of the franchisor. On the franchisor side, you have franchisees, who are willing and able to expand your brand into new markets, and you have other franchisors and organizations who are willing to lend a helping hand and offer exceptional advice. 

1851: What makes someone a good fit for the franchise industry? Are there traits that are shared by the most successful franchise professionals you know? 

Weathington: I believe there are some axiomatic traits for all successful franchise professionals: strong core brand belief, moderate-to-high risk tolerance, willingness to adapt and learn, extreme problem-solving skills and excellent communication skills, including listening. The most successful franchise professionals I know share these traits and generally excel in adaptability and problem-solving. 

1851: How do you feel about the industry's response to the coronavirus crisis so far? Are there challenges or opportunities that the industry still needs to address? 

Weathington: As always, I'm impressed by the agility and adaptability of everyone. This ties into the two previous questions: You're never in it alone, and you find common threads among people across the entire spectrum. Coronavirus has been a learning experience for both long-term and short-term survival. In the restaurant space, the changes have been sweeping, quick and massive, and I believe many of those changes are a net positive for the long term. There will always be challenges and opportunities that must be addressed — nuanced challenges, like basic communication skills and franchise conferences as well as more significant challenges, like entirely digital marketing plans for in-person consumable products and changing core business models that are based around face-to-face interactions.

1851: What advice do you have for other young up-and-comers in the space? 

Weathington: Experience is only necessary when competency isn't available.