WICHITA – Nick Esterline, a Wichita-based commercial real estate broker and entrepreneur, opened a Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers franchise Saturday in Broken Arrow, Okla., the first step in his partnership with the restaurant franchise that should yield at least 16 new stores in the Tulsa and St. Louis metropolitan areas.
It’s the first of several stores Esterline and his partners plan to open in the Tulsa area, according to Freddy’s co-founder Bill Simon. The Esterline franchise also will open between eight and 10 stores initially in greater St. Louis. Freddy’s Wichita corporate office operates one other existing Tulsa store at 9311 E. 71st.
“It’s simple stuff,” Esterline said. “It’s great food, it’s excellent hospitality and people who care about what they’re doing every single day.”
With emphasis on the people who care at Freddy’s corporate, Esterline said.
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“They understand the franchisor-franchisee relationship because they’ve been on both sides of the table,” he said. “They understand people.”
Simon said Esterline, who also operates two Value Place franchise hotels, is the kind of franchise holder Freddy’s has historically sought.
“We’re very pleased to have Nick in our list of franchisees,” Simon said. “He’s proven himself in a variety of other ventures to date and he seems like the caliber of person we’ve been fortunate enough to attract since the beginning.”
Esterline’s stores will be operated by JRI Management, an experienced restaurant management firm operating Freddy’s stores in nine other locations.
It’s the 55th store to open in the growing restaurant chain founded in Wichita in 2002 by Scott Redler and Bill, Randy and Freddy Simon, the latter the face and namesake of the chain.
Simon said plans call for three more stores this year, and a minimum of 25 next year, driving the chain’s expansion above 80 stores by its 10th anniversary.
“At times when we predict something like this, bureaucratic red tape and other obstacles get in the way,” Simon said.
The company’s niche – higher-quality fast food focusing on steakburgers and custard – has helped Freddy’s prosper during a down economy.
“It doesn’t seem to be hurting us,” Simon said. “We’ve got a niche that is working.”