Entrepreneur of the month: Bryan Lockwood

Establishments: Sapporo, ZED451, Napa Valley Grill, California Café, Café del Rey, Blackhawk Grille, Alcatraz Brewing Company and Freebirds

Headquarters: Emeryville, CA

What he’s done: With a stable of full-service concepts like the groundbreaking ZED451 and well-established California Café locations in-hand, Lockwood and partner Barry Goff bought the freewheeling, 18-unit Freebirds World Burrito in mid-2008—just before the economy took the precipitous swing that now favors fast-casual. “We loved the freedom-to-choose style of the original concept and the hippie era approach of the founders,” who started the build-your-own-burrito concept in 1987, at UC Santa Barbara, “but we knew we had to cast a wider demographic net to move into mainstream suburban markets.”

Why we like him: Lockwood, 53, retained crucial elements of the edgy, irreverent Freebirds style (backwards-F logo and Lady Liberty on a motorcycle, burrito in hand) and cult following, but added veto-resistant salads and a softer décor package. They also ratcheted up local marketing. “It’s all about the single-store economic model.”

What’s next: The company is on target to double in size in 2010, to 52 units in four states. “The people are our differentiator, both staff and fans. We’re passionate about our team members and our fans are passionate about us.”

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Why MOD Pizza is not out of the woods yet

The Bottom Line: The fast-casual pizza chain was sold last week to Elite Restaurant Group. But few who’ve seen the finances believe the company can avoid closing large numbers of stores.


Restaurants have a hot opportunity to improve their reputation as employers

Reality Check: New mandates for protecting workers from dangerous on-the-job heat are about to be dropped on restaurants and other employers. The industry could greatly help its labor plight by acting first.


Some McDonald's customers are doubling up on the discounts

The Bottom Line: In some markets, customers can get the fast-food chain's $5 value meal for $4. The situation illustrates a key rule in the restaurant business: Customers are savvy and will find loopholes.


More from our partners