Texas and burgers have a long and storied history. Plenty of cattle and all that. The Texas appetite for a burger – both old-fashioned and more modern takes – remains strong. The state is second only to California in the number of burger joints that dot the state.
So no surprise that Plano-based Mooyah Burgers, Fires & Shakes, a fast-casual “better burger” concept, is planning an expansion – particularly in the Western side of the DFW area.
Former Dallas restaurant and entertainment executive Ted Beaman and his best friends and business partners, Sean McCullough and Greg Stevens, are shifting careers from the entertainment industry to partner with Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes to expand the brand. The three friends had been working together at KidZania, an interactive education and entertainment concept. The brand hopes to double its 83 location footprint over the next 10 years and Beaman, McCullough and Stevens are key to that effort, particularly in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The trio and its Agape Burgers group signed to bring 10 new locations of the Plano-based “better burger” concept to the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area and will acquire and remodel two existing locations. The first two of its prototypes will open in the market in early 2021. All total, the trio expect to bring more than 250 jobs to the Metroplex.
Founded in 2007, the Plano-based company serves fresh, 100% Certified Angus Beef brand burgers, all natural Jennie-O turkey burgers and Dr. Praeger’s black bean vegan burgers, along with non-GMO potato and multigrain buns that are baked in-house daily.
Guests can customize their burgers with a choice of five real cheeses, bacon, avocado and 20 free sauces and toppings made from garden-fresh veggies.
There are, of course, 100% ice cream shakes, with a variety of flavors including vanilla, Hershey’s chocolate, Reese’s, Oreo and more.
In his career in the food and entertainment industry, Beaman had known and worked with several people involved with Mooyah.
“The easiest way to say how we got started with this is, the president of Mooyah, a guy named Tony Darden. Tony and I used to work together at Bennigan’s many years ago,” said Beaman. “Then their head of operations at Mooyah, a guy named Mike Sebasco and Mike and I worked together at Boston Pizza a few years ago as well.”
Beaman noticed how Darden and his team were reinvigorating the Mooyah brand.
“The changes that they were making that were benefiting not only the franchise community, but also the operating community,” he said. “And we were just fans of the business. My wife and I had been customers of Mooyah for many years. So we’ve seen some of the changes, in quality of the product and the menu and some of the things that they were doing.”
Beaman said it was a natural fit because they all liked the brand and knew and liked the people involved.
“We felt like it was a good opportunity,” he said.
Aside from the business opportunity, the trio are also fond of the brand.
“From a quality of product standpoint, the certified Angus beef burger that they use, the fresh pressed fries, the real milk milkshakes that are there, this brand really knows what they are, they’re burgers, fries, and shakes, and they’re exceptionally good at burgers, fries, and shakes,” said Beaman.
“The other aspect that I like about Mooyah is it’s usually friendly. Again, that goes to who we are in terms of people and looking at this as a people business. But when we walk into the Mooyah back when we lived in Flower Mound, or now we go into the Southlake location, we walk into the building and everyone says hello to you. And it’s just a really friendly inviting atmosphere that feels like the kind of business that we feel like we can make an impact in,” Beaman said.
The group is initially acquiring some existing locations.
“What we’ve done right now is we have our first location is going to be in Frisco off the tollway at Main Street, and it was an operating Mooyah that closed due to COVID,” said Beaman. “We think it’s a good location. We just think that they had some challenges with the franchise group that was running it. So we revived that location.”
That location will open in December as their first, but not their last in the area.
“We’re looking primarily at doing new development, because the brand is under-penetrated in the DFW market,” said Beaman. “We think there’s a lot of green space to be able to take the brand. There’s a lot of really neat developments going on either new stuff, or second generation restaurant space where due to COVID or other issues, businesses are going to fail. And there’s going to be an opportunity for us to move into some of those spaces.”
Restaurants have been one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic.
Beaman says restaurants have to think more about their curb-side and takeout business than in the past.
“We are really well positioned on the curb-side takeout aspect,” he said. “Mooyah has worked really hard as a brand to develop an app that the guests can use to either order food for pickup, or actually order food off the app for delivery directly to their house.”
The brand is also testing some drive-thru concepts out in California, Beaman said.
“Since Mooyah’s cooks their burgers from scratch the drive-thru concept of most fast-food restaurants might not work, he said, but there may be ways to make it work, he said.
“When you place the order at Mooyah’s, that’s when it gets put on the grill or dropped in the fryer, and that’s hard to do in a drive-thru operation,” said Beaman. “I think that’s been the challenge historically. But with the Mooyah team, that’s clear now and they’re focused on it and some of the advances in kitchen equipment, quite frankly, it allows you to still provide a drive-thru convenience experience in a reasonable amount of time for the guest.”
Beaman said the group is watching to see how those tests work out.
McCullough said there are several places in Fort Worth that would be good locations for the brand.
“In the greater Fort Worth area there’s one in Burleson and then if you go north of town, you’ve got one in the Alliance area and then you start getting more into the Mid Cities’ area with Southlake and Mansfield and places like that. But on the west side, we certainly think that this plays well in Downtown, Sundance Square, West 7th. The University District obviously is a great place for a burger restaurant. We could go all the way out to Weatherford if we wanted to, but certainly looking out like White Settlement way, really anything, any major areas within Fort worth Benbrook, all great areas that we would certainly take a look at.”
The group’s initial agreement with the Mooyah team is to develope 10 restaurants over the next four years to start building out the DFW market, said Beaman.
“I think there’s 11 locations in DFW right now, and there could probably be if I look at this, the Metroplex, I think we could easily get 30 to 35 locations eventually,” he said.
Beaman said Agape Burger and its parent company, Agape Management, has a relationship with Frost Bank they can utilize to finance their restaurant plans, but said the group is always looking for additional financing.
“If we can get access to some additional capital, then it just allows us to accelerate our growth of this brand or some of the other projects that we’re working on,” he said.