When I was growing up, my father, Freddy, talked about opening a burger joint in our hometown of Wichita, Kansas. But between working at a wholesale liquor distribution company and raising five sons and a daughter, he never got the chance.
Down the line, my brother, Bill, and our business partner and friend, Scott Redler, came up with a restaurant concept specializing in steakburgers and frozen custard. The steakburger concept came from the farm where my dad grew up. My grandparents would butcher the meat and make burgers smashed thinly with caramelized edges that draped outside of the bun. As for the frozen custard, there was a stand that sold delicious flavors at the Lake of the Ozarks where we took family vacations every year. Our idea was to build a restaurant featuring these simple things that we liked from our childhood, so guests in Wichita could enjoy it as well.
When we were brainstorming for names, all three of us decided on "Freddy's." My dad is the epitome of hard work and patriotism. He was raised a small-town farm boy and enlisted in the army as soon as he could, then came out of his service as a decorated World War II veteran. We wanted to be able to tell his story through the restaurant.
The first Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers opened in Wichita in 2002. We never planned to start a franchise, but we now have 280 locations across 31 states. Each location features photos of Freddy across the walls, following him from his infancy and adolescent years to his time in the military and post-war era family life. He grew up during a time that set high standards for customer service and quality menu items; we strive to operate that same way by treating our guests with genuine hospitality and serving them delicious, cooked-to-order food.
Long before the inception of Freddy's, I partnered with Howard Wilkins to form Maverick Development Company in 1974. We launched a Pizza Hut franchise in Texas and New Mexico, and our company also developed and sold Rent-A-Center locations in the Chicago area between 1985-1992. It was around this time that we jumped into franchising with Panera, becoming only their second franchise group.
I've spent the last 24 years with Panera, and it was an unforgettable experience being able to grow with them. With the passing of my business partner, Howard, and my brother, Bill, I made the decision to sell my 34 Panera Cafés earlier this year to Flynn Restaurant Group. It's a bittersweet feeling to close that chapter of my life, but I'm looking forward to being able to dedicate my time to Freddy's and help lead its next chapter as president and CEO.
We have a talented pool of people in our support center office and our restaurants who possess a great variety of experiences and backgrounds. I'd like to challenge our teams to create new ideas for our brand that Bill loved so dearly. Under his leadership, we turned trials into opportunities to advance and grow. Our franchisees have so much combined experience, and it'd be great to involve them more in our brand development to see what ideas we could implement.
Additionally, the use of technology in the restaurant industry is changing and improving. We'd like to begin researching and testing what might enhance our guests' experience while maintaining high standards in our menu items.
I only have great things to say about the past 15 years with Freddy's. We started out thinking that it'd only be a small side project, and it grew beyond what we ever imagined. I have a lot of faith in our teams, who want to see the company succeed as much as I do. With the support of our guests and our Freddy's Family, we'll continue to work hard towards the growth of our brand.
About the author: Randy Simon is president, CEO and co-founder of the fast-casual restaurant concept Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. He started Freddy's in 2002 with his brother, Bill, and friend, Scott Redler.
Edited for brevity and clarity by Sammi Caramela.