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Eggs Up Grill heads west

The breakfast-and-lunch chain has a 30-unit development deal in Texas, its biggest yet. It signals a shift in strategy for the fast-growing brand.
Eggs Up development agreement
Eggs Up signed a 30-unit development agreement to expand into Texas. / Photo courtesy of Eggs Up Grill.

Eggs Up Grill is opening units quickly. It finished 2021 with 53 restaurants. It has 57 now and expects “just under 70” by the end of the year.

Which makes its newest development deal even more notable. Ricky Richardson, the company’s CEO, said that it has signed an agreement with Alliance Food Group to open 30 locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.

And, Richardson said, the operator wants more. “He would like to do the rest of Texas,” he said. “But this agreement is for the counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”

The agreement represents a substantial milestone for the Spartanburg, S.C.-based Eggs Up. The breakfast-and-lunch chain, which grew up along the Carolina coast, has been steadily growing with operators that tried the brand, loved it, and inquired about franchising.

These days, Eggs Up is talking with more sophisticated operators and believes they can provide the next level of growth.

“We’re now focused to add more sophisticated, more experienced franchisees that are attracted to the category because of its growth and are looking for an additional concept to add to their portfolio,” Richardson said. “That will be a growth accelerator for us.”

Eggs Up is part of a generation of family dining chains that close in the early afternoon, focusing purely on breakfast, brunch and lunch. These chains, led by the publicly traded First Watch, have generally outperformed the broader full-service industry in recent years and have attracted the attention of larger companies like Denny’s, which acquired Keke’s Breakfast Café.

To be sure, this makes for a more competitive business. But Richardson said his concept is a more affordable option with more “approachability” than many of its competitors.

“We have the broadest appeal from a consumer standpoint,” Richardson said. “It’s very mainstream, all-American flavors.”

The company largely thrived coming out of the pandemic, with average unit volumes now 25% over pre-pandemic levels, thanks to increased takeout and the addition of alcoholic beverages like mimosas.

The company hopes that its success translates into more growth. “Across our current franchise community, probably 10% to 80% started as guests first,” Richardson said.

That’s great. But Eggs Up has focused now on targeting experienced operators into the system. Richardson said the company’s “sweet spot” is operators with 10 to 15 locations looking for additional groups.

In this instance, Alliance Food Group is both a traditional franchise connection and a new one. “He found out about Eggs Up as a guest first,” Richardson said of Ron Donaldson, Alliance’s owner. He first came to know about Eggs Up after visiting one of the chain’s restaurants in Charleston, S.C.

“We’ve been talking for almost two years,” Richardson said. “The appeal of the concept was first as a guest and then as a commercial opportunity.”

For Eggs Up, the deal could open up more opportunities, taking the brand the furthest west it’s ever been with a developer who plans to build a lot of locations in a major market. “This will be a good growth accelerator for us,” Richardson said.

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