CEA Hospitality Winner: Franchising Expands Shak’s Footprint

By Lynda Van Kuren, posted May 5, 2023
HOSPITALITY | BURRITO SHAK | David Longo, Founder | Year Founded: 2015 | Employees: 24 (Photo by Madeline Gray)
Burrito Shak’s fresh, tasty food, friendly beach vibe, and affordable prices have made it a favorite Hampstead dining spot for nearly eight years. Those ingredients have also made the restaurant a successful franchise. 

Burrito Shak’s founder, David Longo, is a Wilmington native who grew up in Topsail. He graduated from the Johnson & Wales University’s culinary school and then served as a sous chef in Charleston and Hawaii before returning home to work in dining establishments such as Castle Bay Country Club and Beauchaines 221.

It was only when Longo had children and noticed that the Hampstead area seemed to have no restaurants that served quick, high-quality meals that he decided to open his own restaurant.

With nothing but a $145,000 loan and a second-generation restaurant, Longo launched his business. 
“I went in with a tape measure and did my own layout and built the store out as well,” he said. “I knew what the store needed from my experience as a chef and started putting it all together.”

Next came the most important factor – good food made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Longo put his culinary skills to work to create a unique Fresh-Mex cuisine. The restaurant features standard Mexican dishes served with Longo’s signature sauces plus one-of-a-kind specials such as Shak’d Potatoes and Waffle Fry Nachos. 

From the beginning, Longo also made it a point to give back to his community. He regularly held fundraising nights for local nonprofits, school clubs and sports teams – a practice he continues today. 
Within six months, Burrito Shak had a solid following, and Longo was pretty sure he was on the right track. The end-of-the-year numbers and customer feedback proved him right. 

In its first year, Burrito Shak earned $700,000 in sales revenue, outperforming Longo’s goal of $500,000-$600,000 by a comfortable margin. In its second year, Burrito Shak was voted the best taco in North Carolina in the Strange Carolinas North Carolina Taco Tournament.

Then in 2019, Longo opened his first franchises, two restaurants located in Wilmington and Swansboro. In 2022, Longo opened six franchise restaurants in North Carolina and one in Arizona, and the franchises’ sales totaled $8.9 million. Next year, Longo plans to open new franchise restaurants in South Carolina as well as North Carolina. 

“I had always planned to expand,” he said, “and franchising provides opportunities for other families.”
To ensure his franchise partners’ success, Longo gives them his unqualified support. 

“I have a Zoom meeting once a month with all my franchisees and collaborate with them,” Longo said.“It’s an opportunity to get feedback and improve, and it’s invaluable to helping them grow the business.”

Longo also updates recipes, invests in new technologies to enhance the restaurants’ operations and develops ways to deliver products more efficiently.

Click here to view all of the 2023 CEA winners

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