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Support, strong AUVs draw Mike Lester to Walk-On’s


Mike Lester

Mike Lester spent eight years as president of The Melting Pot, where he says seeing the success of the brand’s franchisees is what ultimately motivated him to “make the switch.” “I’ve always had a little bit of what I’ve called a repressed entrepreneurial spirit,” said Lester, who recently changed from franchisor to franchisee when he signed a deal to open six Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux locations in the greater Tampa area.

Walk-On’s, the Louisiana-based sports bar and restaurant founded by Brandon Landry and backed by NFL quarterback Drew Brees, rebranded in December, replacing “Bistreaux & Bar” with Sports Bistreaux to denote its emphasis on quality food in a game-day atmosphere.

Lester said that combination helped Walk-On’s stand out during his evaluation of close to 40 different franchise restaurants. The food and beverage offerings had to be “mainstream enough” to have broad appeal, but also “differentiated enough to stand out,” he noted. “About one-third of that menu has that Louisiana flair,” said Lester, pointing also to a strong sales mix of seafood and healthier items. That variety is “really important to future growth.”

While Walk-On’s, with an investment range of about $1.2- to $2.3 million for its 8,000-square-foot restaurants, is a pricier concept, Lester said a strong average unit volume of more than $5 million was another attractive feature. Perhaps most important, however, is the support Lester said Walk-On’s provides its franchisees.

Though he has decades of restaurant industry experience, “I’m starting my business from scratch,” said Lester of his Tampa-based Walking Tall Brands, which he launched with CFO Steve Strigler to develop Walk-On’s. At Melting Pot, Lester said it was frustrating to see some franchisees not use the various support functions, a mistake he won’t be making.


Walk-On’s 8,000-square-foot restaurants have an AUV of more than $5 million.

“I know I’m going to take full advantage of that because I know how successful franchisees can be if they follow those systems,” he said. At Walk-On’s, “they want the early franchisees to have the same support experience as franchisee 150,” and have staffed accordingly.

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Tropical Smoothie Café signed two multi-unit deals to develop 38 cafes across Colorado, including a 27-unit deal and an 11-unit deal. Craig and Dianne LeMieux, along with son Kyle and his wife, Saverea LeMieux, are the brand’s Colorado area developers and facilitated the agreements.

Dave’s Hot Chicken will enter the San Diego market, signing a 12-unit agreement with multi-unit operators Andrew Feghali and Lawrence Kourie. Kourie is president of Cluckin’ Inc., with exclusive rights for San Diego County.

Potbelly inked an agreement with Brent and Michele Brouse for 13 new shops across North and South Carolina.

Wireless Zone signed an agreement for 19 units in Virginia with franchisees Richard and Kelly Gdovic and their ComServe Corp.

Curry Up Now signed a multi-unit deal for the entire state of Indiana with franchisees Bill Morgan and Rick Renner, who will first open stores in the greater Indianapolis area.

Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar signed a four-unit development agreement with entrepreneurs Harry Singh and Jesse Thind for the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

An area development deal will bring Doughnuttery shops to the Milwaukee area as Laura and Mike Karolewicz of ML Doughnuts signed to open five locations.

The Hummus & Pita Co. signed a multi-unit agreement in Columbus, Ohio, with HAPCO Development of Ohio, a large multi-unit franchise operator.

Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids inked two multi-unit deals. Lee McMillan III will open three stores in the New Orleans market, while Brian Enright will bring two units to Chester County, Pennsylvania.

The Wire is the place to find news of multi-unit development agreements, brought to you by Editor Laura Michaels. Want more? Sign up for the e-newsletter at franchisetimes.com/e-newsletter. To share your brand’s multi-unit deals, email details to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com

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