A&W franchisee aims for destination locations
Longtime c-store operator Eddie Khoury plans to differentiate his A&W restaurants by making them into destinations—and having the cleanest stores around.
You have a lot of c-store operations, what drew you to A&W?
I love what they do with the brand right now, the way they turned it around and I love the history and that it’s well-recognized. When they gave me the opportunity to bring it back to Louisiana, I thought it would be amazing. Everyone has a story, ‘My brother worked there’ or ‘My dad used to go there, we loved the root beer.’ I love that part of it, bringing something back to this area that people can relate to and have memories with and hopefully we can establish new memories with their families and their kids. And the bottom line is nice.
You’re at the ultra-convenient end of franchising. Has that helped during COVID-19?
Absolutely, we’ve been blessed through the whole thing. We’ve done what we have to do to follow the guidelines and never had any issues. We hired people to spray the places. We’ve been able to maintain and sustain. When COVID hit, everybody had a little scare. Luckily, we had ourselves in a good position in this market. My dining rooms struggled a bit, but in May it started ticking up.
With c-stores, drawing people off the highway takes a different mindset. How does it apply to restaurants?
That’s been the trend for a long time. That’s why you see these huge convenience stores building out … inside convenience you have to have an attraction. So, where I’m building that A&W, I’m doing a whole development with a Shell Station and a freestanding A&W. I got this 3-acre pond and I’ll put a boardwalk on there with splash pad for the kids and a park to make it more attractive than your typical location. Now you need to create a destination for everything nowadays; there are so many competitors. Everybody sells burgers and coffee. So, you have to differentiate yourself with convenience and make it a little bit nicer.
How do you manage the complexity of brands?
We have a team, I have about 100 to 130 employees and I have an ops manager, general managers and a couple people that help on day-to-day operations. But I’m in every store I own at least once a day to drink some coffee and check in. It gets harder as you grow, but I enjoy it. You just deal with the day-to-day problems, it’s fun to see where do I go put out fires. I’m a problem solver. I love what I do and I love meeting new people and mingling with my employees. I just take the time to enjoy everything.
What is your guiding philosophy for running the business?
The main thing to me is get up and do your best every day. I’m a detail kind of guy so my places have to be perfect. Everything from furniture to my walls. I’m so OCD I have a guy that goes through my stores all the time and keeps things up. I like to remodel, any time I get a chance to update I take it. ... I might send a guy to paint all the walls just because I don’t like the look of one area. That’s the biggest part of the business for me. If someone walks into a store and it’s not well maintained, it might have better product but they won’t come back.
What advice do you have for other operators?
It’s all about hard work, you gotta maintain those places. A lot of people start cutting corners and don’t maintain the operation. But the more you put back into the business the more people come.
What makes you a successful entrepreneur?
Persistence, I’m a positive guy and I’m very persistent. I tell everyone that works with me, I look at the glass half full. If there’s a problem, let’s go fix it, no point dwelling on it. I always say, ‘Give me the problem and the solution.’ I don’t just want the problem; I want the solution too.