Fresh off winning a People’s Choice Award for best cheeseburger, the Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes brand is ready to expand, particularly in its homebase of Dallas and Fort Worth.
The Plano-based fast casual chain was recently awarded the People’s Choice Award for best cheeseburger in DFW from a Dallas Morning News poll. The award was particularly satisfying because the chain is fairly small in the area with 14 locations in north Texas, Doug Willmarth, president of the chain, said.
“We know we have more room to expand and we plan to,” he said.
Those expansion plans include several locations in the Fort Worth area.
The counter-serve burger chain with about 100 locations nationwide makes custom burgers, including never frozen, certified Angus beef, chicken, veggie and vegan versions, nontraditional artisan bun options like lettuce wraps and gluten-free, hand-cut. Idaho potato fries, ice cream shakes and other options not common at traditional burger chains, said Willmarth.
“We believe we have the best tasting cheeseburger in the business, bar none,” he said.
The chain invests in its labor force to do a lot of things by hand and that makes a difference in the quality of the offerings, he said.
“It may be the hard way, but it makes a difference and I think it has paid off in a better tasting burger and a lot of extra choices for people to customize their burger,” he said.
Willmarth, a veteran brand leader in the restaurant industry, joined Mooyah a year ago to accelerate growth of the chain, which has 90 locations around the country. Willmarth has experience with established brands such as Frito Lay, Chili’s, Oscar Mayer and Pizza Hut as well as emerging brands like Wingstop and Genghis Grill.
“We’ve got a couple of franchisees who are looking for new territory in the market right now and corporate is looking at a couple locations too,” he said.
Nationwide, the brand, founded in 2007, has opened locations in California, Louisiana, Florida and Abilene, Texas, over the past year. It is now focused on development activity in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Arizona and supporting the company’s franchise owners in Houston, Las Vegas, Tampa, Atlanta, Raleigh, Nashville, Orlando and Richmond.
Willmarth believes there is room for at least 25 more Mooyah’s in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.
“There’s still plenty of upside here,” he said.
One of the franchisees looking to expand in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is Colleyville-based Agape Management. Agape has three Mooyah Burger locations in the area, in Colleyville, Frisco and Wylie and has plans for seven more on the drawing board.
Sean McCullough, co-owner of Agape, said the franchise hopes to open three new locations on the west side of the metroplex soon.
“We’ve had good success with the brand and think there’s more room to expand,” he said.
Agape has looked at other franchise concepts, but has stuck with Mooyah, McCullough said.
“They have a good product and the customers have responded,” he said.
There are plenty of challenges to opening new restaurants in the current economic climate, McCullough said. Staffing remains a challenge, he said.
“Everyone is trying to hire,” he said.
Area locations have recently hired enough people to get through the holiday season, McCullough said.
Mooyah’s Willmarth said staffing issues hit the chain fairly hard because the products, from the burgers to the shakes are hand-made.
Some new locations may have self-serve kiosks for ordering, he said, but that automation won’t extend to the kitchen.
“We’re not going to cut our quality and having hand-made, custom burgers is a key to that quality,” he said.
The company weathered the pandemic in good shape, Willmarth said.
The company already had a solid online ordering system and relationships with third-party delivery systems.
“Our sales hung in pretty well,” he said. “In fact, 2020, we outperformed the restaurant industry as a whole. And in particular the fast casual segment. We had a really strong 2021.”
What Mooyah Burgers didn’t have during the pandemic were any drive-thru locations. That will change soon, Willmarth said.
“That’s something we’re working on,” he said.
Young consumers in particular, he said, don’t like to leave their cars.
“The pandemic only made that more of a necessity for restaurants like ours,” he said.
The company has some drive-thru options it will unveil soon.
“That’s a challenge for us because we’re not fast food, but we’ve got some solutions coming,” he said.
Mooyah’s in and near Tarrant County
Heritage Trace & Old Denton Road
Fort Worth 76244
360 & Broad Street
Interstate 35W & McAlister Road
Flower Mound location
Cross Timbers Road & FM 2499
Flower Mound 75028
Southeast Corner of Southlake Blvd. and Davis Blvd.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.