265 restaurants, 3 brands, 9 states—a peek inside Shawn Eby’s playbook
Illustration by Jonathan Hankin
Shawn Eby, 48, brims with confidence about his baby—Goalz Restaurant Group, a franchise company he formed last February. Eby, a veteran of Dairy Queen, Burger King, Arby’s and Taco Johns, is counting on employees he’s met along the way to help him open 265 fast-food restaurants across three brands and nine states, all within five years.
American Development Partners is also helping by funding the new free-standing units. We recently asked Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Eby to explain his portfolio model and present his slightly edited answers here.
FT: First, explain Goalz’s management structure.
SE: I’m the franchisee of record for the three brands—Captain D’s, Church’s Chicken and Dog Haus. I have territory rights in nine different states. I set up a company to grow as quickly as we signed development agreements for. So I needed to have regional vice presidents who could open restaurants in their own regions.
Danny Robinson, David Clark and Wade Lancaster are responsible for everything in their region—hiring employees, training, inventory and payroll. I’ll still come in and help, and we pick sites together. I share with them 50 percent of my equity.
FT: Where are their regions?
SE: I asked my VPs where they wanted to be. Danny had just moved to Florida. David is moving to North Carolina and Wade is in the process of moving from Cheyenne to Denver, because that’s where he and his wife want to raise their family. Those were the beginning conversations I had and then I went to the brands and said, “This is where my team wants to be. Let’s target the areas.”
FT: How are they invested?
SE: It’s really sweat equity. Because I did such a large deal with Church’s Chicken, 200 restaurants, Church’s asked that Danny, David and Wade become franchisees as well. So technically they are franchisees of record, too. Anytime they do Church’s in their areas, they sign the lease with me. But if it’s one of the other two brands, I sign.
FT: Will you push down sweat-equity ownership?
SE: As we bring other people in we will give them a piece as well. When we bring in a district manager, I give up 3.5 percent and the regional vice president would give up 3.5 percent of his. And now the district manager has 7 percent.
FT: How did this type of model come about?
SE: I have been in restaurants my entire life. I’ve seen different operating partner programs and thought if I were to create something I’d like to take ownership down as far as I can.
I like to get it down to every employee, but we are a ways away from that.
It’s not about Shawn getting rich. It’s about all of us together making some more money and growing Goalz as a group. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be making good money. But everyone else will be sharing in that as well. When someone can go home and tell their spouse, “Honey, I own a part of this company,” it’s huge.
FT: You’ve agreed to open 20 new Captain D’s. What’s the attraction?
SE: I knew if I started a big company, I wanted a portfolio. For me, it was finding brands where I can truly get behind the food. I believe my team can take care of the guest, the facility and the employees. Plus they have a brand new image, which I like, and new grilled products. In the seafood category, they are a cut above everyone else.
FT: I hear about “great food” a lot. But you must have wondered if you could make money.
SE: You always have to look at the numbers. For all three brands, we believe we can make money and grow sales over time.
FT: Captain D’s has been boasting about consecutive quarters of same-store sales increases.
SE: Truthfully, that’s part of what got me excited. I didn’t know that much about the brand. Actually, ADP, American Development Partners, mentioned it. I went and checked it out and then said, “Show me some of your numbers.”
FT: And Church’s Chicken—why the interest there?
SE: One, it was the food. It was phenomenal. I hadn’t had been in a Church’s in years. They have rebranded and opened beautiful new buildings. Plus, they had a huge franchisee incentive program. So that’s why we did that deal, in May.
FT: How did your 41-unit agreement with Dog Haus come about?
SE: I’d just had a great first meeting with ADP. We were talking about equity and the brands I wanted to get involved with. A week later, I was in Long Beach visiting my daughter.
She and her boyfriend took me to Dog Haus. It was, like, midnight. It was a fun atmosphere and people were taking pictures of their food. It was almost like this aha moment. This is what I’ve been looking for! So I went to see them. I brought in ADP. And all of us came to an agreement.
FT: Dog Haus restaurants are inlines, though, not ground-ups.
SE: We are taking the brand to another level by doing ground-ups with 1,800-square-foot beer garden patios. My territory is Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana and Illinois. The first one opens on November 18 in Rockford, Illinois. Three days later, another opens in Decatur.
FT: What’s your deal with ADP?
SE: First, we agree on the land and then the numbers have to work. They buy the land, build the building and put in the FF&E. They own a large construction company. Then they turn the restaurant over to me on a triple-net lease basis. It’s perfect for Goalz because we are operators, and I want my team to focus on operations, the guest and the employees.
David Farkas has covered the restaurant business for 25 years as a reporter and food writer, and writes about development deals in The Pipeline in each issue. Send your franchise’s development agreements to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.