Senior Vice President of Development, Wray Executive Search
Featuring Ricky Richardson, CEO of Eggs Up Grill
Former TGI Fridays president and COO Ricky Richardson became CEO of breakfast and lunch concept Eggs Up Grill in 2018. The 34-unit chain is growing throughout the Southeast. Eggs Up Grill, founded in 1986, was acquired in March 2018 by private-investment firm WJ Partners.
What inspired you to join Eggs Up Grill?
After spending a number of years in C-suite roles at TGI Fridays, which is the global casual dining leader, I wanted to pursue an opportunity that allowed me to more closely experience what I’ve always enjoyed about the restaurant industry – seeing smiles on guests’ faces when we provide them with great-tasting food in the best environment.
Personally, I have always been energized in my career when I’m part of high-growth environments. There’s a unique energy created during this phase. Joining a small but successful concept like Eggs Up Grill was highly attractive to me. I immediately recognized the growth opportunity, and we are already seeing it come to fruition across the Southeast. My expectations have been more than exceeded by the quality of our franchise partners, the team I work with, our accelerated growth… and most importantly (honestly), the smiles we’re putting on the faces of our guests. That’s how I measure success.
What are the most exciting new developments at Eggs Up Grill right now?
Wow, we’ve been focused on a broad, but important series of initiatives over the last 10 months. We recently introduced a range of new menu items, which was the first refresh in several years. We worked closely with our franchise partners in selecting these items, while also listening to what our guests told us they liked in our test restaurants. These new items and the new menu have gone over well with our team and guests.
In addition, we will be opening our only company-owned and operated restaurant in about three weeks here in Spartanburg. This location will be the first of a new restaurant prototype for the brand. It’s a complete refresh of our design and décor, creating a warm, welcoming ambiance while delivering more of the Eggs Up Grill personality. This is all while continuing to provide great tasting breakfast, brunch and lunch items.
The facility will also serve as our franchise-training center. Here, we will be able to provide each new franchisee with hands-on operational training that exposes them to the technology tools we use, as well as the back-office administration processes and controls available to help them realize their financial objectives.
I’m also excited about our innovation kitchen at the new Spartanburg location. This will give us the ability to accelerate our product development while continuing to improve our base menu items and innovate new products that appeal to our guests.
Finally, I couldn’t be more energized about the growth trajectory for the brand. When I joined there were 25 restaurants in the system, we now have 34 in operation. We will end the year with more than 40 Eggs Up Grill restaurants across six states. This is just the tip of the iceberg for Eggs Up Grill’s potential as a brand.
What sets this concept apart from other breakfast/ lunch concepts proliferating right now?
I’ve been so impressed by the quality of our franchise partners and how passionate they are about Eggs Up Grill and their restaurants. All our franchisees come from the local community and they take pride in being a vibrant part of those communities.
Our franchise partners truly are neighbors serving neighbors – that’s our motto and it shows in their connections to their guests. Our menu is full of great tasting, approachable, all-American breakfast dishes…from the classics to new favorites, offered at a great value.
Combine both with an operational model that enables non-restaurateurs to quickly step in and lead a successful and high-quality experience makes Eggs Up Grill a special offering.
What do you think is the secret to success in the restaurant business?
I’ve always believed that the restaurant business is a simple one, but and Malcolm Knapp always says, simple is hard. Successful restaurants respect their guests; they welcome all and treat them like they would guests in their home. In our case, that means providing them with great-tasting food served with a smile. It’s that simple – our goal is to put a smile on the face of each guest. The complexity is to consistently do that with hundreds of guests a day!
What is a little-known, interesting fact about you?
One of the unique experiences I’ve enjoyed in my career has been the opportunity to travel to over 45 countries outside the US. I’ve been on six of the seven continents (never made it to Antarctica!), seen incredible sites and experienced an amazing array of cultures. From these experiences I’ve come away with a strong belief that there is an innate goodness in all people, a shared desire for children to have a better life than their parents…and that everyone loves to enjoy a good meal with friends and family! While in many countries there is a real pride to show the gleaming, new developments as a sign of progress I’ve been most impacted by seeing the history I read about growing up…like this visit to Athens, Greece and walking thru the Acropolis.
Rebecca Patt specializes in retained executive search for the restaurant industry with Wray Executive Search. Need to hire an ace executive for your team? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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