Statewide: Eastern region, May 2015

 In 2015-05
Hwy 55 revisited

When Kenney Moore started Andy’s Cheesesteaks and Cheeseburgers in 1991, he had $500 in his pocket. The Mount Olive-based restaurant chain, now known as Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries, has more than 100 restaurants, employs 2,500 people and recently signed a deal to option more than 1,000 franchises across the country and internationally. Moore also recently co-wrote a book, Behind the Drive: A Story of Passion, Dreams, Demons, and Hwy 55, the World’s Next Favorite Burger Joint. He spoke with Business North Carolina about growth, mistakes and why he’s going after Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

What has been key in recent years to the company’s growth?
I won’t say that I was comfortable being just in North Carolina, but when the economy took a downturn, some of my franchisees didn’t have a desire to expand. Like everyone, they just wanted to hold on and see how things turned out. I looked at it totally differently. I looked at it as an opportune time to grow because I thought there were great deals out there. You always have a bit of trepidation and nervousness, but I watched Five Guys, who do something very similar to what we do, explode. Frankly, I sat here with my team one night, and I said, “What are we waiting for? We’re pretty good. Let’s go.” And that was it. That’s how the decision was made.

What challenges have you experienced expanding beyond North Carolina?
The biggest challenge is making sure that I’m partnered with the right people in these states. We’ve had one negative experience in Canada where we picked the wrong partner, but for the most part they’ve all been wonderful. What I’m looking for is people who share the same set of values. I’m not necessarily looking for restaurant people. I’m just looking for good business folks who have a passion for serving others and understand what it means to be a servant-leader.

What are your main goals for the company during the next few years?
Just to expand and do it right. My biggest fear is that we go too fast and we lose what makes us special. My goal is to make sure, two years from now, we have not only grown, but we have grown well. It’s not our desire to ever be the biggest restaurant company in the world, but it is our desire to be really, really good at what we do and have a lot of impact on the people who work with us and the customers and guests who eat with us.


Briefs

ST. PAULSSanderson Farms will build a chicken-processing plant and hatchery here and create 1,100 jobs over three years. The Laurel, Miss.-based company will invest $139 million in the new complex, expected to open in 2016, and to upgrade its existing feed mill in Kinston. Average annual wage for the new jobs will be about $25,455, lower than Robeson County’s $32,493. Cumberland County also tried to lure the company.

GREENVILLE Vidant Health named Michael Waldrum chief executive. He had been president and CEO of The University of Arizona Health Network since January 2013 and was previously CEO of University of Alabama Hospital at Birmingham. He replaces David Herman, who resigned in October to lead Essentia Health in Duluth, Minn. Based here, Vidant employs more than 12,000 people at eight hospitals in North Carolina.

RIEGELWOODInternational Paper will invest $135 million to convert its local manufacturing plant to produce exclusively softwood pulp and fluff, which is used in products such as baby diapers, by mid-2016. The conversion’s impact on jobs is unclear. The Memphis, Tenn.-based company planned to sell for an undisclosed sum its Carolina brand of coated paperboard products — used for greeting cards and book covers — that it produces at the Columbus County plant, where it employs 740 people.

WILSONBathcraft will close its local plant at the end of the month, and all 87 workers will lose their jobs. The Remerton, Ga.-based company, which makes bathtubs and showers for residential homes, cited uncertainty in the housing market as a reason for the closure.

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