David Schuck didn’t envision himself in the restaurant franchise business. He was just enjoying an annual trip to Cozumel, Mexico, helping host employees of the business he owns with his interior designer wife in St. Joseph. But soon, he found himself making frequent lunch trips to a Mexican restaurant called Crazy King Burritos.
“We’d sometimes go straight there when we landed,” says Schuck with a smile. “And then we were going back almost every day.” Schuck and wife Karen Garlanger of Welcome Home Design Group were spending several weeks each Winter in Cozumel, and soon met the owner of Crazy King Burritos. They struck up a conversation one day and learned Crazy King was a very successful single location restaurant. But the owner had dreamed about franchising it. “I’d love to do that someday,” he said, “but I just don’t know how.”
Schuck responded, “Maybe that’s something I can help you with,” although he admits he knew nothing at the time about franchising—or about owning restaurants. Schuck is entrepreneurial. “I like to work ON businesses as much as IN them,” he says. So, he went to work learning about how franchise systems are created. He says it’s all about government regulation and processes, far afield from the food and service that make up a successful restaurant.
“It was like a series of rabbit holes,” says Schuck. “I just kept going down each one until I found out what I needed to know. And then I moved on to the next one. Eventually, I knew how to build a franchise system in the quick serve food business!” That ‘rabbit hole exploration project’ took from 2018 until early 2020, when Schuck was ready to take Crazy King Burritos to the US franchise market. Just as the World shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic!
Schuck’s initial franchise marketing effort online produced almost nothing, given the timing. However he came out with one potential franchisee in Dayton, Ohio. After much effort, that store became the first US location of Crazy King Burritos, soon to be joined by Schuck’s own “laboratory” store location at Glenlord and Red Arrow Highway in Stevensville. He’s excited to have three other franchisees in various stages of development, which he hopes will soon lead to as many as ten Crazy King locations within a year.
What does it cost to open a Crazy King Burritos store? Schuck says you’ll need $15,000 for a franchise fee, plus about $100,000 for average construction costs of your location. Then there’s some ‘operating cash’ for those first few months when you might find yourself ‘printing red ink.’ “We feel good about a potential franchise operator with at least $300,000 net worth, plus those start-up and operating numbers, “ says Schuck.
The Glenlord/Red Arrow location was “perfect.” 1200 square feet. A former Taco John’s store, it has healthy traffic, good accessibility and already had a ‘kitchen hood system’ installed—a major necessary expense for most quick-serve restaurants. The fact that it’s ‘right here at home’ is a bonus. Schuck says he’s not looking to amass a large number of ‘corporate stores’. But having a ‘laboratory location’ is a good thing. “My mission is to serve my franchisees,” he declares.
Underlining that point, Schuck says if someone wanted to open a Crazy King in downtown St. Joseph, he’d happily sell them a franchise. He believes South Haven would also be an excellent market. He has no plans to carve out several states for corporate stores. He says location is the key factor to success, not necessarily a set population within a radius, often cited in franchise marketing.
Schuck concluded early-on that to deliver the unique Crazy King Burritos products, he had to control the production of the tasty sauces and the spice packs for the meats used in the stores. “It’s all about quality control and taste,” he says. That required full FDA approval as a food manufacturer. And it meant importing certain ingredients from Mexico via Texas, before delivery to Ohio and Michigan. He hopes and believes that attention to detail will be worth the added cost of those ingredients—essentially a ‘secret sauce’ that will set Crazy King apart from its better known—and cheaper—competitors.
When the doors open at Crazy King Burritos in October, there’ll be about a dozen items on the menu. Schuck enthusiastically points out the recipes are originals from Cozumel, with quality ingredients and unique house-made sauces. They’re authentic flavors from Mexico, he says, truly different than run of the mill fast food outlets. “No compromises,” he says, “This food is the real thing, just like we found in Cozumel.”
Schuck is also trying to duplicate a bit of the ‘feel’ of the original Crazy King. He proudly shows sketches, prepared by his wife’s design firm, of a combination of rustic and modern décor. Wood table tops, bright red chairs and walls combining natural wood and corrugated steel, balanced by facing walls of sparkling white tile.
There’ll be both Take Out and Dine In service available. Schuck is bucking the trend toward all carry-out and limited service. He says you’ll be able to come in, sit down, have your order taken and brought to your table for pleasant dining. However, your time is valuable and this is still ‘quick serve.’ He promises you’ll be able to sit down, dine in and still have time to drop off your dry cleaning on your lunch hour.
Crazy King Burritos will be open seven days a week, 10am-9pm, when it opens, likely in early October. As with many things these days, it all depends on supply chains, deliveries and available personnel.
Schuck is looking to recruit an experienced food service person as General Manager, so that he can focus on continued development of the Crazy King franchise system. He can be reached at David@ckb4you.com .