based fast-casual restaurant chain promoting Andrew Kim to president and chief executive.
Kim joined the company in 2018 as chief legal officer after a 15-year stint as its outside legal adviser, representing and counseling the brand on corporate, legal and franchise matters.
He replaces Kyle Lee, who co-founded WaBa Grill with Brian Ham and Eric Lee.
“It has been a privilege to represent WaBa Grill throughout the brand’s history and play a role in its evolution over the years, and I am honored that the company founders have entrusted me with these new responsibilities as president and CEO,” Kim said in a statement.
“This trust reflects the ownership’s confidence in our entire team of outstanding and committed professionals to strategically grow the company in units and sales while building even stronger emotional connections with our guests and franchisees,” he added.
In a statement, the company said Kim will “leverage his long history with the brand, as well as his longstanding experience as a franchise attorney, to lead WaBa Grill in its next phase of growth (including) strengthening franchisee support and guidance, nurturing relationships with the company’s dedicated team members, and building meaningful connections with guests.”
The franchisor also promoted Mark Finnegan from vice president of marketing and technology to chief marketing and information officer. Renny Freet was named chief organizational and human resources officer after serving as senior vice president of operations services and training. And Afshin Compani, former vice president of franchise operations, is now chief restaurant and development officer.
WaBa Grill was founded in 2006, offering rice bowls topped with chicken, ribeye steak, wild-caught salmon, jumbo shrimp or organic tofu. The founders are “equally involved in the brand today, providing strategic direction and guidance,” according to the company.
WaBa Grill’s franchised restaurants are located in California and Arizona, including recently opened locations in North Hollywood, Colton and Lancaster.
Franchise fees are $30,000 for an initial store and $25,000 for each additional store. New franchisees also must have $500,000 in cash on hand and pay 5% of gross sales for royalty fees. Another 3% goes to a marketing fund.
The 200-unit franchisor posted a 3% year-over-year increase in systemwide sales in 2020.
Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based market researcher with focus on the foodservice industry, pegged the chain’s 2019 sales at $132.6 million, which brings the 2020 revenue estimate to $136.6 million.
More than a quarter of sales at WaBa Grill’s 191 franchise restaurants in 2020 originated from the company’s digital channels — its app and website — compared to 4.5% in 2019.
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