Support, strong AUVs draw Mike Lester to Walk-On’s
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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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 firstname.lastname@example.org