Right location brings love, opportunity to breakfast franchise owner
“Location, location, location” has been the not-so-secret reason why many business ventures excel and others do not. For Randy Kveton, who owns two Huddle House franchises in West Virginia, location has brought him love as well as opportunity.
He moved to the Mountain State at the request of his sweetheart, Shelley, who grew up in the area. He settled down and was managing two nearby hotels when he came across a chance to own a Huddle House breakfast franchise in a prime location, right next to the Best Western he was managing in Chapmanville. The close proximity lets him offer special discounts and convenience to his hotel guests, who get to take advantage of inexpensive, homestyle meals in the family-friendly restaurant. That’s a win-win for both his businesses. That first Huddle House franchise led to another for Kveton, who is now married to Shelley and has three young daughters, Kenley, 9, Kennasyn, 8, and Kennedy, 3 (he jokingly says his wife insisted on the all-K names).
When he’s not enjoying the company of his girls, Kveton is juggling his roles as a hotel manager (in addition to the Best Western, he manages the Microtel Inn & Suites in nearby Beckley) and the owner of two Huddle House restaurants with two partners. He squeezed in some time to share his experience with others.
How did you find out about Huddle House?
I was running the Best Western for an ownership group, which had built a Huddle House out in front of the hotel. The franchisee no longer wanted to run the Huddle House. The same ownership group had also built a Huddle House in Beckley because of the hotel that was built there. When the person who initially took over the Chapmanville location decided he wanted only the Beckley franchise (he didn’t want both since they are two hours apart), I was asked if I would be interested in taking it over. My father-in-law, Greg Ellis, and I opened it together. The Chapmanville location is actually the first Huddle House in the state of West Virginia.
How did your second location come about?
Lyle Stowers, who is my wife’s best friend’s father, owned a Hardee’s building in West Hamlin, where we live. When the lease was up, he asked if I’d be interested in converting it to a Huddle House, and he wanted to be in the business, too. I now have two Huddle Houses with two different partners. I run both restaurants.
When did you purchase your first Huddle House in Chapmanville?
It was November 2011.
How much time passed between that one and your second location?
In June 2013, we opened the West Hamlin location, but we had been working on that one for a while because it was converted from being a Hardee’s. We weighed our options over whether to convert it to a Huddle House, which does not have a drive-through like Hardee’s. We had to make sure Huddle House was going to be the right fit for that area.
What made you decide that it was?
I was already familiar with Huddle House from our Chapmanville location, plus you get a great menu selection and support with the Huddle House.
Had you been thinking about going into the restaurant business?
If you had told me two years ago that I was going to go into the restaurant business, I would have told you that is absolutely not true. I never thought in a million years I would be in the restaurant business. It was something my mother did; she owned restaurants when I was growing up. But I didn’t think it was something I would ever do.
Is having restaurant experience necessary for owning a Huddle House?
No. Huddle House provides you with the support, systems, training and everything you need to be successful. Whether it’s phone or email, the people at the company are responsive and return your messages right away. We were a little concerned when we started working with Huddle House that that wouldn’t be the case, but now that the new CEO Michael Abt is on board, I feel Huddle House is definitely going in the right direction. You can see a future with Huddle House.
So you see an opportunity for growth with Huddle House?
Yes. Lyle and I are considering a multi-contract agreement with Huddle House to possibly open five or more within the next several years.
What is your biggest challenge in expanding?
We live in a different world than the one we lived in just 10 years ago. Finding the right employees is a challenge. Huddle House provides you with support, as far as training and giving you all the right tools to open. The company even comes in and trains your employees for two weeks before you open the doors.
What do you like about your job?
I don’t consider it a job. I consider it an opportunity. I also like “table touching” — talking to customers and making sure they’re happy, their expectations are met, and the service and quality is there.
What is typical day like for you?
When I’m in Chapmanville, it’s easy, since my wife helps with the West Hamlin location, where we live. It helps that it’s her hometown as well. If there’s an issue, we’ll know about it sometimes even before the staff because people will call my wife or me directly.
A sense of community is very prevalent in Huddle Houses, wouldn’t you say?
It’s another thing that I really like about Huddle House. With other franchises, when you build restaurants or hotels, or anything, they want to know how many cars pass in front of the building at any given time. But with Huddle House, the company doesn’t care about the car count. What’s important is the rooftops within a certain parameter. Huddle House really pushes being community-oriented and doing things in the community. I coach football and basketball in West Hamlin, and I’m also vice president of the youth soccer league there. In Chapmanville, I’m on the Chamber of Commerce board as well as the visitor’s bureau board. And I’m on the board of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association.
Who are your competitors?
In both our locations, our biggest competitor is Tudor’s Biscuit World.
What attracts your customers to Huddle House over your competitor?
It’s the quality of our food. I would put our steaks up against Outback and any of the steakhouses. Our steaks are unbelievable.
How busy are your stores?
We do a lot more volume in Chapmanville than West Hamlin. West Hamlin is more of a bedroom community, as it doesn’t have many jobs, so there’s not much activity during the week at breakfast and lunch. It’s more of a dinner restaurant. But at Chapmanville, it’s pretty much all day long – breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Is your West Hamlin location hopping on the weekends?
Yeah, during the weekend, it’s busy all day long.
What’s the secret to your success?
We go above and beyond on the service and the quality. Customers can go anywhere to get a hamburger or a two-egg breakfast. It’s giving them the experience that makes them want to come back. They feel like it’s not just another restaurant. We’re giving them a place where they are treated great, where they feel at home and where they want to go back. The key is not having them come back just because you’re the only place to eat in town but having them come back because they want to come back.
Would you recommend a Huddle House franchise to someone else?
Absolutely. Huddle House does whatever needs to get done to help you be successful. A lot of franchises take the check and you never hear from them again, whereas Huddle House is with you from day one. That’s been our experience.
What are the personal benefits of franchise ownership?
The benefits include being your own boss and building your own personal future as opposed to building someone else’s future. I do very well running the hotels under the ownership group, which treats me well, but they could always let me go tomorrow. That won’t happen when you have your own business.
What type of person would enjoy owning Huddle House?
You’ve got to be personable. You can’t be a clam. You need to be outgoing and willing to talk to people in your community and get involved in the community. This business is what you make of it. Some people in this area still don’t know what a Huddle House is, so this is not the type of place where you’re going to open the door and have a mile-long line of people waiting to get in. You have to put the work in to let people in your community know about it.
What else should potential franchise owners realize?
You need the patience of Job. You’re always going to have one customer who’s never going to be happy. I always tell my staff that when you’re dealing with that type of customer, you need to put yourself on the other side and think about the real reason behind the person’s complaint. You need to talk to the customers and treat them as you would want to be treated.
What’s your favorite Huddle House menu item?
We have a Pride of the South menu out now with daily specials. So on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, we’re usually eating at the Huddle House because we have the pot roast, and it is unbelievable.
Learn more about Huddle House
Huddle House is an iconic Southern breakfast franchise with more than 400 units in over 21 states, and we are looking to expand further. The core values on which Huddle House was founded in 1964 — serving quality food in a warm, friendly environment that brings the community together — remain intact today. Typically open 24 hours, Huddle House serves any meal, anytime. If you think Huddle House might be the right franchise opportunity for you, fill out this form to download our free franchising report or call us at 1-800-418-9555.