When Amaan and Zunaid (Zee) Pobandarwala set out to diversify their portfolios, they began searching for the best franchise restaurants to own in the United States. They entertained the idea of getting into fast food and looked at other long-standing chain restaurants but were not satisfied. Amaan, who is as thorough of a businessman as we've met, continued his search until he found something that caught his eye. A brand on the way up. A brand that aligned with his own goals. A brand that was big. He brought the idea to business partner Zee and the two set a meeting to discuss franchising a Big Whiskey's restaurant in Hoover, Alabama. What would happen next is the stuff of legends.
They met with co-owner and COO Paul Sundy at a Big Whiskey's location to discuss the prospect of working together. Zee says they had always wanted to open a restaurant and a bar and when they found Big Whiskey's had a structural solution for both, his interest was piqued. Amaan agreed and saw two other elements as deciding factors. "The food was what got my attention right way. Then when we met the people, that was the deciding factor," Amaan added, "They were willing to spend and grow. We want to grow and we saw that they did too. They understand what we'd like to accomplish and our visions align."
After the meeting with Sundy, they decided on a build-out plan that no other Big Whiskey's had tried yet, a prototype that would maximize the investment from a square footage standpoint and provide a great front of house to back of house flow. "It was an amazing looking bar design and an amazing looking restaurant design and it's only going to keep getting better from here," Zee says of the build out. With the designs in hand, the Pobandarwalas set out to bring bold flavors and a top-of-line service experience to Hoover.
In their first year, they set a franchise record for sales, which is an incredible feat as the location furthest from the original Big Whiskey's stomping grounds in Downtown Springfield, Missouri. Even more impressively, they did it with sheer determination and business savvy, overcoming one the greatest obstacles restaurants have ever faced in American history, the coronavirus. The virus arrived just as the plans were coming together, but Amaan and Zee do love a challenge and they adapted at a rapid pace to offer unique deals, clever logistical ordering and plenty of other industrial ingenuity that catapulted them to the top of the consideration set in the area.
According to Zee, they were happy to take a little bit of luck during covid, but as he puts it with a wry smile, "It was just a lot of hard work." That hard work paid off, netting the location franchise records in sales. Naturally, people have often asked them how they did it and Zee says it all boils down to the people.
"Amaan and I pride ourselves on our servers. That's what it boils down to. Food needs to be on point which it is, and guest experiences needs to be on point as well," Zee said, "You've gotta find the right people and leaders and train them the right way."
This idea is clearly visible when you visit the Hoover location and the reviews show it. People rave about the in-venue experience nearly as much as the food itself. Franchise owners with Big Whiskey's are privy to comprehensive training resources, complete systems support, marketing guidance and ad spend, plus purchasing and supplier assistance.
Outside of training and support, Amaan and Zee have had some amazing success in using a clever social media game to spread their messages out online and to create shareable content that customers want to participate in, pushing the message even further. When they opened, they made a post about a great deal they developed for the BW Fishbowl cocktail. The results were staggering. The post generated more than 2,300 comments in just a few hours. "It was wild," Amaan said of the sales effect, "we actually had a line wrapped around the building just for this one social media post. We ran out of gin. It was a good day for sales."
Another thing the Pobandarwalas credit for their prolonged success over the year is the brand new Legendary Loyalty Program. They say it has done wonders for creating new regulars. "If you tell them they'll get a free appetizer, they'll usually download the app," Amaan says, "then when they come back they really want to use those points. Some guests will even offer to pick up the tab for their friends and family to build up points."
It has been an amazing year for Amman and Zee at their first Big Whiskey's location and we are certainly pleased to be working with them. Getting a fast start like this location is possible when you've got a great work ethic, a good plan and great offerings. If you're interested in discussing what a Big Whiskey's would look like in your hometown, let's get in touch.