Greg Graber of Huckleberry's Breakfast & Lunch
Greg is a results-driven restaurant executive with extensive senior leadership experience. His diverse management portfolio includes Operations, Marketing, Facilities & Construction, Development, Finance & Purchasing, IT, HR, and New Product Development. He has guided organizations through challenging times, transformative events, major operational roll-outs and mergers. Greg has simultaneously managed multiple brand platforms and consistently realized improved margins while not compromising on the guest experience. His resume includes leading a diverse restaurant organization with over 300 restaurants and $800 million in annual revenue. With over thirty years of industry experience, he has a proven track record of successful product, process and protocol enhancements that increase sales, traffic and bottom line performance. Greg has held executive positions for a variety of segments in the restaurant industry including polished casual, family, buffet, breakfast and casual dining. He started Heritage Restaurant Brands in October of 2016. Heritage is the parent company and franchisor of 34 restaurants including Cool Hand Luke’s Steakhouse Saloon, Perko’s Café Grill and Huckleberry’s Breakfast and Lunch. Greg has used his expertise to clearly identify the brand positioning for each concept and built an operational foundation for growth with a particular focus on Huckleberry’s Breakfast and Lunch strategic expansion. Greg and his wife Jonette have 4 children, 2 daughter in-laws and 2 perfect grandchildren.
1. Tell us about the Huckleberry’s concept.
Huckleberry’s Breakfast and Lunch is certainly unique in the breakfast/lunch space. We describe our food as “Southern Cookin’ With a California Twist”, which allows us to deliver authentic southern cuisine and yet still add fresh and contemporary touches to the menu to broaden our appeal. The atmosphere of Huckleberry’s is that of a real Southern Bayou complete with a weeping willow tree, sparkling fireflies and Zydeco music.
2. How and when did you become involved with Huckleberry’s Breakfast and Lunch?
I met the founders of the brand in the spring of 2016. They were looking for an exit strategy and I was looking for an opportunity to build something great. We started Heritage Restaurant Brands and signed the deal in October of 2016.
3. What was your background prior to joining Huckleberry’s?
I’ve been in the restaurant business for 35 years and have been blessed to be able to work my way through the ranks. In recent years, I’ve held a variety of executive positions for several brands. Being able to start Heritage Restaurant Brands is a dream come true.
4. What are some of the advantages in being a Huckleberry’s franchisee?
I suppose you’d have to ask our existing franchisees, but I imagine they would say that
Heritage is first and foremost interested in their success. We spent the first 18 months of our ownership understanding the brand and the needs of our franchisees. We wanted to invest in the operational structure of the brand before growing it. Now we are ready and new franchisees will not only enjoy our support but will have a chance to be involved in the very foundation of the brand’s growth and evolution. (as well as enjoy the momentum of 14 consecutive quarters of same store sales growth!)
5. Who is your ideal franchisee?
In short, an individual or group that is committed to protecting the brand and passionate about operational excellence. There are several keys to our mutual success but one of the most important is the willingness to share best practices and great ideas so the entire brand benefits.
6. Tell us a little about the Market?
The Breakfast/Lunch category of the restaurant business is one of the fastest growing segments. There are several reasons for that such as low cost of entry, great operating hours (7 am to 3 pm at Huckleberry’s), great food cost and overall affordability for the consumer. Huckleberry’s has a unique niche within the Breakfast/Lunch space with our menu offerings, differentiating ambiance and genuine, Southern Hospitality.
7. What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
The top of the list would be that we do not have all the answers. With that said, when we work collaboratively with our Franchisees, we can come up with great solutions.
Another would be the importance of investing in a strong operational foundation before starting aggressive growth. We feel great about where we’re at but would guess we’ll still be learning for the next 20 years. Improvement never stops.
8. Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
Over the years I’ve learned from so many people…way too many to name. I’m inspired by those in our industry that make things happen, despite difficult circumstances. Our business is not for the faint of heart. At Heritage, our goal is to honor the past and build a legacy for the future. That means we invest in relationships inside and outside of work.
9. What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
Do your homework. Many times, it’s not “what” you’re doing but “who” you’re doing it with. Make sure you are partnered with people that you can absolutely trust and share similar values as you do.
10. In your opinion, why do you think that Huckleberry’s Breakfast and Lunch would be a great opportunity for someone?
Think about some of the great brands in our industry. At one point, they too had 10 units and were poised for growth. That’s exactly where Huckleberry’s is today. I absolutely believe this is a dynamic, emerging brand that will be a major player in our industry. We are just getting started and need committed, passionate partners to join us as we grow and evolve. What are you waiting for?