The Week In Franchising, March 20, 2012

A roundup of developments affecting franchisees and franchisors.


Wild Wings finalizes new management team
David Leonardo has been hired by the new owner of Wild Wing Café to lead the bar-and-wings concept’s franchise development. Before joining the 33-unit chain as chief development officer, Leonardo was a franchising executive for Wendy’s, Arby’s and Burger King. He reports to newly named CEO Bill Prather, who’s no stranger to franchising himself. Prather formerly ran the Hardee’s chain and served as executive vice president of Burger King’s global operations. Wild Wings was acquired in January by Axum Capital Partners, whose managing partner, former Red Lobster president Edna Morris, served as CEO until surrendering the job to Prather. Twenty-two of Wild Wing’s stores are franchised.

Mac Grill zee goes bust
A 10-unit franchisee of Romano’s Macaroni Grill has filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection. Waterloo Restaurant Ventures, based in Vancouver, has six outlets in Seattle and four in Portland, Ore. The company told local media that it intends to reorganize and continue in operation.

Starbucks updates its franchise brand
Starbucks’ established franchising vehicle, Seattle’s Best, took the lid off a new drive-thru prototype Monday in the suburbs of Chicago. The store was reportedly designed to appeal to blue collar workers, youngsters, and Hispanics, all of whom tend to drink coffee in their cars. The unveiling coincided with the opening of Starbucks’ first Evolution Fresh juice bar, a bricks-and-mortar version of a retail brain recently acquired by the coffee giant. Starbucks has not yet revealed whether it will franchise Evolution.

Daphne’s looks to franchise
The new CEO of the Daphne’s California Greek fast-casual chain is looking to franchise the concept, two years after a misguided expansion drive tripped it into bankruptcy. With 56 stores now open, Bill Trefethen told the media that he’d like to add at least that many stores through franchising.

Noble Roman tries co-branding with 2nd c-store chain
Noble Roman will install units inside eight outlets of the Huck’s convenience store chain next quarter to test co-development with the 110-store retailer. A co-branding test with The Pantry chain is scheduled to debut in the next few weeks, as previously announced. Noble Roman has targeted nontraditional franchising as a major avenue of growth for the venerable brand.

Gatti’s lands a big-name expander-in-chief
Gatti’s Pizza, another grizzled veteran of the pizza wars, has hired former T.G.I. Friday’s chief Richard Snead to lead its rejuvenation and expansion efforts. The recruitment of Snead as president and CEO follows such moves as developing a new growth vehicle, Gatti Town, which features games a la Chuck E. Cheese’s. Gatti’s has franchises and company stores in 13 states.


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