Franchising Today - Summer 2016 - 88
TAZIKI'S MEDITERRANEAN CAFÉ
www.tazikiscafe.com / Headquarters: Birmingham, Ala. / Employees: 2,000 /
Keith Richards, founder: "I look for those people who understand my brand and passion."
Taziki's Mediterranean Café wants to get to know potential
franchisees and ensure they are passionate about the
company before they become part of the brand.
A passion for fresh food and imaginative recipes make
Taziki's Mediterranean Café a success. BY BOB RAKOW
Keith Richards has been involved in the restaurant business since
he was 18 years old. He always enjoyed
the work, but did not develop a true
passion for cooking until he worked
for chef Frank Stitt. "I worked for 10
years in his award-winning restaurant
and saw his passion for food," Richards recalls. "I said, 'I'm going to have
that kind of restaurant.'"
Stitt is the owner and executive
chef of Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega Restaurant and Chez Fon Fon in
Birmingham, Ala. He became a member of the James Beard Foundation's
"Who's Who of Food and Beverage"
in 2011. His love of cooking and running a restaurant were a large factor
in Richard's decision to start Taziki's
Mediterranean Café. A trip Richards
and his wife, Amy, took to Greece was
also an influence.
The couple envisioned a restaurant
that was a combination of tasty Mediterranean markets and their mothers'
kitchens, where simple ingredients
and imaginative recipes would come
together for a refreshing and original experience. They opened the first
Taziki's Mediterranean Café in Birmingham, Ala., in 1998.
Today, Taziki Mediterranean
Café boasts 53 locations, including
34 franchise restaurants. Plans call
for increasing that number to 71 by
the end of 2016, Richards says. The
restaurant has locations throughout
the Southeast, as well as Colorado,
West Virginia, the Carolinas and
Oklahoma, he says. Expansion in
2016 will bring the café to Ohio and
Louisiana, he says.
Taziki Mediterranean Café started franchising locations in 2008, and
the move has been successful. "I think
it's gone great," Richards says. "What
gets franchisees to come in the door is
the segment we're in."
Indeed, choosing an appropriate
sector in the restaurant business can
be a difficult decision for new franchisees, especially because there are
so many issues to consider before
making a commitment. Richards,
however, ensures that potential franchisees get to know him, his restaurant and the business plan before
signing an agreement.
He starts his due diligence during
telephone conversations with potential franchisees. He follows up with
discovery day, during which he meets
with people interested in running one
of his restaurants. For Richards, the
ideal franchisee is someone who is
ingrained in the local community and
understands the lay of the land.
"These are people who are passionate about the brand," Richards says. "I
look for those people who understand
my brand and passion, and that's
helped us grow. I've got to get to know
this person. I've got to trust this person to carry my brand forward." The
company's largest franchisee operates six restaurants.
Taziki's Mediterranean Café's menu
features creative twists on classic
dishes. It features grilled and baked
chicken, pork loin and lamb, along
with an array of gyros, seafood, vegetarian selections and numerous