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From franchisee to CEO: How Greg Willman is resurrecting Naf Naf Grill
25th May 2023 • Take-Away with Sam Oches • Nation's Restaurant News
00:00:00 00:38:17

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In this episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches, Sam talks with Greg Willman, CEO of Naf Naf Grill. This Middle Eastern fast casual was founded in the Chicago area, and Greg was the first franchisee, opening his first location in 2020. After the entire system shut its doors in March 2020 and seemed unsure how to proceed, Greg was part of a group that acquired Naf Naf, and he’s now spearheading its rejuvenation, with nearly 40 locations open today and dozens more in the pipeline. Sam met up with Greg at the National Restaurant Association Show held recently in Chicago and he shared how his experience as a franchisee is guiding his time as CEO and why he thinks the fast-casual Middle Eastern and Mediterranean category of today looks a lot like the fast-casual Mexican category of 1998. 

In this conversation, you’ll find out why:

  • Understanding both sides of the franchisee-franchisor relationship is a major asset for a brand leader
  • Fast-casual Mediterranean and Middle Eastern still have incredible growth potential
  • Brands with more unfamiliar cuisines should lead with whatever generates trial
  • When it comes to growth, fish where you’ve caught fish before
  • Delivery/carryout locations may be better suited for brands that are embedded in a market 
  • Getting from store 1 to 100 is hard — don’t try to speed through it

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