Why Native is one of the best fast casual food franchises for entrepreneurs

Strong results. An impressive track record. And the freedom to innovate.

Why Native is one of the best fast casual food franchises for entrepreneurs

Strong results. An impressive track record. And the freedom to innovate.

In 2019, Native Grill’s average sales topped $2 million.

Our restaurant franchise has been thriving for more than 40 years. But the success hasn’t gone to our heads. We know that franchisees have great ideas, and we’re eager to hear them. We’re one of the best restaurant franchises for you to consider because we are a tight-knit group that listens and isn’t afraid to try new things.

As one of the youngest and newest franchisees in the system, Michelle Kim of Mesa, Arizona, was invited to be part of Native’s COVID task force in 2020. That made a big impression on Kim, who did not have previous restaurant experience. “I was invited to be part of that team along with the most tenured and experienced owner, and that just spoke volumes to me in terms of, wow, they're not only going to listen to my perspective, but they're valuing my perspective since I bring such a different viewpoint to this team.

“They just really receive my feedback well, and I can tell that they value it,” she says.

Bigger isn't always better

As a smaller franchise system, we can empower franchise owners by giving them a bigger voice and room to experiment. Pat Kieny, an experienced restaurant franchise owner, was able to launch a successful catering arm at his Phoenix-area Native Grill restaurants.

“Some of the more corporate franchise brands are very rigid,” Kieny says. “You have to do things exactly this way at exactly this time, blah blah blah… But Native Grill is a small enough franchise group that franchisees have some flexibility in doing things like catering, and it allows you to really take pride of ownership.”

CEO Dan Chaon says offering flexibility to experienced entrepreneurs is a big deal. Brand standards maintain the franchise system’s consistency, but it’s important to give entrepreneurial franchise owners a voice in shaping those brand standards.

“Most of them came from big organizations like McDonald's or Wendy's or Olive Garden,” Chaon says. “So for them to be able to come in and have a say-so on how the brand is run and how we develop it, that’s a big deal. We let them be entrepreneurs, and we seek a ton of input from them to help the brand get better.”

A franchise family

As a Native Grill franchisee, you’re part of an elite and close-knit group of experienced entrepreneurs. We refer to ourselves as a franchise family, because everyone knows one another so well.

Our strong franchise support systems are backed by an informal support group of fellow franchisees, which many owners find to be just as valuable.

“There's a call every week and we text, we talk,” says franchisee Matt Thiara, who has 35 years of experience in the business and has worked with some of the biggest restaurant franchises. “It's a small group, but a good group.”

The svelte size of our restaurant franchise — we’re still under 25 units — is one of the reasons we were able to pivot so quickly in 2020 to contact-free curbside pickup and third-party delivery. Making changes and trying new things in a large chain can be like trying to steer an oil tanker — change is slow. Native Grill & Wings is more like a speed boat — nimble and able to respond quickly to new opportunities and challenges.