Local burger franchise owner happy with new corporate ownership

tporter@lsjournal.comJune 26, 2014 

Gene Scassellati is franchise owner of a few area-wide Back Yard Burgers, including one in Lee’s Summit.

As a franchisee Scassellati is considered one of the corporation’s best operators.

Scassellati has kept things simple in his nearly decades-long run in Lee’s Summit; provide quality food with exceptional service and continue to offer new seasonal promotions to keep a fresh approach.

The outlook has worked for Scassellati despite some rocky times for the parent company which boasts an 11 percent first quarter increase in sales this year compared to the same time last year.

The increase comes after the Back Yard Burgers’ parent corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2012. The same day the company declared the closure of multiple company-owned stores. The uncertain times didn’t affect Scassellati’s bottom line at his locations in Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs and Independence, but it did bring on some frustration on Scassellati’s part for what he deemed a lack of support with ongoing promotions.

“In a lot of ways, it didn’t affect us because we just ran our business,” Scassellati said June 25 as his discussed his approach towards maintaining a successful business. “We didn’t have a problem with the food or anything like that. Where we lost out on was we just didn’t have support. We didn’t do anything promotional wise; we just kind of sat there and basically everything we did was what we did on our own. We were just stagnant in a lot of ways.”

With new ownership in place and a new CEO providing his insights into the business model, Back Yard Burgers company-wide approach is better as is its relationships with franchise owners. Scassellati is tops among them, said David McDougall, current CEO of Back Yard Burgers.

“I came aboard about 18 months ago and a few of the things I focused on was restaurants level economics,” McDougall said. “That means are the restaurants working financially? As an owner, can they make money? That’s critical. A restaurant has to work financially. Second was franchise relations. Good communications, on-the-ground support; those are the things that were not happening the previous years.

“The third thing for me was focusing on your roots. What made our burgers special? When the company was founded in 1987 it was all about great-tasting food. Whatever we did, our food met that bar. Those have been the three areas as a team we have been focused on.”

Scassellati is thankful for the corporate support.

“It’s been overall good (in Lee’s Summit),” Scassellati said. “We’ve maintained our business. Mismanagement by corporate put a strain on how we do business, but now we have really good people running the company and doing a good job. It’s been very helpful in the last year. Things are going a lot better for us. We’ve done some good promotions and they’ve been giving us support again, so it’s been good.”

McDougall in turn, is appreciative of franchise owners such as Scassellati.

“Gene, I would certainly count as one of our top franchise owners,” McDougall said. “His passion for the brand, his commitment to his customers and to his employees is clear. I’ve had a chance to come out and spend time with Gene twice now. The culture in his business – how he treats his employees – I think has been a direct result of how he takes care of his customers and he does a very good job with that.”

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