As Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers transitions into a new chapter under new ownership, a new face is at the helm.
Chris Dull, who most recently headed Global Franchise Group, was hired in May as the new president and CEO of the Wichita famous franchise, replacing one of the brand’s founders, Randy Simon.
Dull says everything that makes Freddy’s so familiar — and so delicious — isn’t changing. The restaurant headquarters is staying in Wichita, and so the new executive has found a home here and is commuting back and forth from Fort Worth.
Dull is also at the helm as the restaurant industry grapples with the “new normal,” which has put an emphasis on takeout, delivery and drive-through service. But Freddy’s, he says, is well-positioned to thrive in the post-Covid environment.
He joined the WBJ for a Q&A about his new role and what he hopes to accomplish.
You’ve had a 25-year career in franchises and restaurants. How did you get into the industry and what do you like best about it? I started my career at an entry-level position with Marble Slab Creamery, Inc., where I rose through management to play role in the company’s growth as executive vice president. I most recently served as president and CEO of Global Franchise Group, which has a portfolio of six brands – Great American Cookies, Marble Slab Creamery/MaggieMoo’s, Pretzelmaker, Hot Dog on a Stick, and Round Table Pizza. The best part of my career in the restaurant industry is the opportunity to develop our team members and offer support as they work to achieve their goals.
Stepping into the role of CEO, how would you describe your vision for Freddy’s future? Any immediate goals? The Freddy’s vision will remain consistent with where it originated, keeping American values alive. In my new role as CEO, I would like to increase our focus on marketing, franchise development, operations and technology to keep Freddy’s on a path of continual improvement. I hope that within the first five years of my role as CEO, we can grow Freddy’s to around 800 operating restaurants across the nation. I foresee us working even closer with our franchisees to share the story of Freddy’s and to share the hospitality and wonderful products we have to offer to a broader community. Our franchisees have so much combined experience, and it would be great to involve them more deeply in our brand development to see what ideas we could implement. Additionally, the use of technology in the restaurant industry is continuously changing and improving. We want to begin further research and tests to see what might enhance our guests’ experience while maintaining high standards in our menu items.
Many in Wichita consider the Freddy’s success story a reflection of the city’s entrepreneurial spirit. In what ways is the Freddy’s franchise an innovator in the industry? Freddy’s differentiates itself with its high-quality, cooked-to order menu items and freshly churned frozen custard, and the hospitality goes beyond anything I have ever experienced in the fast-casual restaurant industry. Freddy’s has adopted the philosophy of treating team members, franchisees and vendors as family and treating customers as guests. This simple belief of treating one another with respect and offering our guests extraordinary service with a smile has helped the Freddy’s concept grow so rapidly.
The quick-serve model has proven to be pretty resistant to the damages of Covid-19. How do you think restaurant operators will need to adapt as the pandemic continues to play out? Including Freddy’s, we have seen many restaurant operators shift their focus on drive-through, carryout and delivery. In doing so, we have also researched and studied our operations to find opportunities where we could increase service and reduce wait times. Investments in innovation and technology will allow brands to evolve and adapt to the new demands of a post-Covid reality. There are also new prototypes, such as locations without dining rooms that only operate through drive-through and delivery. Freddy’s first location of this model will be opening in Salina later this summer. However, as things begin to normalize, we’re happy to welcome guests back to our dining rooms. Our genuine hospitality and family-friendly atmosphere that brought us to where we are today will always remain a focus.
Is Freddy’s experiencing the same staffing challenges restaurants across the country are facing at the moment? What will it take to meet those staffing needs? The staffing shortages across the country are currently impacting the entire restaurant industry. At Freddy’s, our corporate and franchised locations strive to offer competitive wages and benefits, a great culture filled with growth opportunities for our team members and resources ensuring our team members have a safe environment to work in amid the pandemic. As Americans get more comfortable with the idea of returning to work after such a taxing year and more time spent at home, we are focused on continuing to make Freddy’s a great place to work. Through servant leadership, we strive to support our team members in achieving their goals. The success of our team members is why we are here.
What’s your go-to Freddy’s order? Double steakburger, California style, with bacon, pickles and mayo, onion rings and vanilla shake with strawberries.