Krystal signs up another celebrity franchise partner

In recent years, the franchise industry has attracted a number of high-profile superstar franchisees who want to invest their celebrity earnings into proven business models and reap the rewards. Kanye West is said to have bought 10 Burger King locations in 2010 as a birthday present for his then-fiancé Kim Kardashian. Former NBA star and actor Shaquille O’Neal has a huge portfolio of franchise investments, including more than 150 Five Guys restaurants, 40 24-hour fitness franchises, 9 Papa Johns locations and more. Tennis star Venus Williams owns 4 Jamba Juice franchises in Washington DC and rapper and entrepreneur Rick Ross is said to own 25 Wingstop franchises.

Of course, signing up a celebrity as a franchise partner brings not only the financial investment, but also the associated star quality and celebrity endorsement, which in turn attracts more interest and new audiences to the brand. After joining forces with Wingstop, Rick Ross said some of his locations saw sales increase by as much as 50%. And after his mention of the company in one of the rapper’s songs, wings sales across all Wingstop franchises are said to have increased.

utilities Crystalthe oldest quick-service restaurant chain in the southern US announced a brand new celebrity partnership with American radio host and television personality Charlamagne tha God, and his wife and business partner, Jessica Gadsden-McKelvey. The couple has signed on the dotted line to launch 6 franchise locations by 2023, with the first in Charlamagne’s hometown of Moncks Corner, South Carolina.

Krystal started life in 1932 in Chattanooga, Tennessee and is considered the seventh oldest burger chain in the entire US. It operates a mix of company-owned and franchised locations and is famous for its square “slider” for hamburger patties with a steamed bun. The quick service brand has certainly not had the smoothest of rides over the past two decades, running into financial difficulties in late 2018 and 2019 and beyond filing for bankruptcy protection in early 2020. It was then acquired in May 2020 by Fortress Investment Group, a subsidiary of SoftBank Gold child propertya large Pizza Hut franchisee, as an operating partner and installed Thomas Stager, a partner at Golden Child, as president of Krystal.

Stager took over at what was clearly a very challenging time for the established company. Krystal’s sales reportedly declined, the number of locations fell from 363 in 2017 to 287 in mid-2022, and many franchisees were reported to be looking to sell. A board shake-up, the establishment of a single Krystal Council franchise committee, and leveraging the involvement of the brand’s two largest franchisees, which operate 45 and 11 restaurants respectively, to support the development of a new prototype and new menu items were some of the first major initiatives. Aging restaurants were earmarked for renovation, new locations were redesigned with smaller footprints and drive-through lanes, and a mobile app was launched in 2011.

But perhaps one of the most important factors in the turning point of Krystal’s fortunes has been the new creative marketing initiatives and celebrity endorsement the brand has brought in, spearheaded by Chief Marketing Officer Alice Crowder who was appointed to the position in June 2021. At the end of 2021, the chain announced the Superbowl champion Victor Cruz would open up to 5 franchise locations in New Jersey and in early 2022, the brand joined forces with rapper 2 Chainz and announced him as their Head of Creative Marketing. The 2 Chainz deal has a collaborative focus on two Atlanta restaurants, branded as “2 Chainz Krystal”, decorated in his style and housing some of his memorabilia. This soon saw results reflected in increased sales, and Crowder said in March 2022 “The restaurant that we’ve started running with 2 Chainz, we’re seeing double-digit results from the rest of the market, and we’re seeing the market, Atlanta, outperform the rest of the system.”

Endorsements from other celebrities such as Brittany Renner and Ray J followed, with the brand dedicating part of their marketing budget to celebrity and influencer connections. The latest celebrity franchise partnership with Charlamagne: God and his wife will have the couple personally design the interiors of their stores and is part of Krystal’s ambitious plans for rapid franchise growth and increased brand awareness. “We are ecstatic to partner with Charlamagne and expand our footprint nationwide. Charlamagne is pushing the boundaries nationally by highlighting important issues in society,said Jonathan Childs, chairman of Krystal.

Celebrity endorsements may not be new to Krystal, previously rumored to be a favorite restaurant of Elvis Presley and featuring Samuel L. Jackson appearing in a 1975 Krystal commercial, but the Southern quick-service brand hopes this most recent celebrity signup along with its other star franchise partnerships will put it firmly on track to reach its expansion goal of reaching 500 restaurants within five years.