How Success Happened for Andy Wiederhorn, CEO of FAT Brands
Merging food and numbers was a recipe for success for Andy Wiederhorn.
If you have ever been to a Johnny Rockets or Fatburger, you can thank Andy Wiederhorn for the delicious burger experience — and for bringing new locations across the globe. Wiederhorn is CEO of FAT Brands, a global restaurant franchising company that continues to take a bite out of its competition through its aggressive growth strategy. After a record-breaking year of M&A activity in 2021, the company currently owns 17 restaurant brands and franchises over 2,300 units worldwide.
Entrepreneurship has always been a part of Wiederhorn's life. At only 21 years old, he founded a successful financial services firm. While he experienced success, unforeseen events led him back to his roots, the restaurant space. He grew up in the space and his first job was in a restaurant. He saw an opportunity to immerse himself back in the business when Hollywood's favorite burger brand, Fatburger, went up for sale in 2003.
Despite being a beloved brand to celebrities like Magic Johnson and Kanye West, Wiederhorn had his work cut out for him. Upon taking over the brand, there were many inefficiencies and the only way to start over was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for two of the burger brand's West Coast subsidiaries. From there, Wiederhorn focused on renegotiating leases/supplier agreements and expanding overseas where capital was more readily available. Fast forward to now, and Fatburger is sizzling. There are approximately 200 locations throughout the world. Also, an acquisition by Wiederhorn in 2011, Buffalo's Cafe, only amplified the iconic burger brand as he created a quick-service model of the wing concept, Buffalo's Express, to co-brand with Fatburger. To date, there are over 100 co-branded units.
This was just the start of Wiederhorn's vision of building a powerhouse global restaurant franchising company. In 2017, he went through the arduous process of taking FAT Brands public, one that took over six years and many doors being closed. Every setback only fueled his desire to make this a reality, but the wait was well worth it. The FAT Brands stock was recognized as one of the top-performing restaurant stocks of 2021.
Wiederhorn's financial acumen was key in the IPO becoming a reality and it equally played a role in the 12 restaurant acquisitions he executed in the last four years. From finding the capital to integrating these new brands into his portfolio, nine of which were during the pandemic, he stayed committed to his long-term vision of adding brands that were synergistic and high growth.
More deals are certainly up Wiederhorn's sleeve as he strives to be a top 10 player in the category in terms of restaurant count, but don't get caught up in the numbers. From new co-branding opportunities on the horizon with new portfolio brand Hot Dog on a Stick and Johnny Rockets to being one of the first restaurants to debut plant-based chicken nuggets with Impossible Foods, innovation doesn't take a backseat.
His advice for other entrepreneurs? Hit singles and doubles. Don't swing for the fences as home runs will come on their own.
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