I have four vices in life, one of which is ice cream. I’ll leave the other three up to your imagination, but I assure you they are legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. My love for ice cream covers the gamut of styles and flavors from soft serve to hardpack, to super-premium to plant-based. I’ll take simple vanilla or Vietnamese coffee with toasted almonds. There is virtually no ice cream I’ll pass on. That said, my senses and ice cream fixations are consistently elevated when the subject of French ice cream or, as we know it, frozen custard comes up. Frozen custard is traditionally made with egg and has a denser texture. It is creamier than traditional American ice cream and has a smooth, silky mouthfeel. OK, I guess I made my point. 

Growing up in Queens, NY, my ice cream experience was generally limited to the ice cream truck. A product completely iced over and solid as an ice cube right out of the truck’s freezer on a summer’s evening. My first taste of frozen custard happened at the Jersey Shore, on the boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach, to be exact. I instantly became a convert. Fast forward 45 years, and I find myself the President of a multi-brand franchisor and one of the brands in our portfolio was a frozen custard brand. During that time, I learned about the care necessary to craft this exceptional frozen product and how many parts of the USA had never enjoyed frozen custard.  

But this article is not about ice cream per se. It is about how Scott Redler, the cofounder and COO of Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, managed to stick to its founding values as he grows the company. How he navigated his brand through these tough times and what “lessons” learned will be carried forward post-pandemic. 

Creating And Maintaining An Authentic Brand

Gary Occhiogrosso: Scott thank you for time today. To begin, please tell us about what inspired you to open the first Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers location in 2002.

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Scott Redler: Family. The Freddy’s brand was born from real family history, delicious food, loving memories, and strong relationships. In 2002, alongside my business partners Bill and Randy Simon, we set out to create a family-friendly concept that featured the classic menu favorites we craved—lean ground beef steakburgers, Vienna Beef hot dogs, shoestring fries, and freshly churned frozen custard treats. These signature items were inspired by our shared history enjoying these dishes with our family and friends. We named the restaurant for Bill and Randy’s father, Freddy Simon, a World War II veteran whose family values and patriotic service to his country were the foundation of our restaurant concept.  

Occhiogrosso: I read the brand prides itself on doing things “The Freddy’s Way,” can you elaborate on what that means? 

Redler: The Freddy’s Way is our promise to approach every aspect of our business the right way, holding true to our values and emphasizing quality. It means every guest can expect genuine hospitality and food cooked to order with premium ingredients, served hot and fresh in a clean, family-friendly environment. 

Occhiogrosso: How has sticking to Freddy’s founding values contributed to the brand’s success and growth? 

Redler: It has been helpful because it provides a blueprint in all of our decisions, so we know our operations will always align with our values. It encourages us to test new initiatives, weighing them against our values and resisting the urge to rush the process. In a fast-paced industry where brands are in competition to be “the first” or “most unique,” we have been able to manage through the tough times by remaining consistent and refusing to compromise on our values. 

Adverse Times Brings Opportunity For Improvement

Occhiogrosso: Are there any initiatives that Freddy’s rolled out due to the pandemic that will stay with Freddy’s as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis?

Redler: Our careful response to dining room closures drove drive-thru efficiency in a way that has been incredibly educational in terms of improving that aspect of restaurant design and capitalizing on its benefits. The focus on drive-thru has pushed our operations to be the best they can be while maintaining our quality and hospitality standards. For example, adjusting our process at both the speaker and window has helped to reduce the average check time by 15 seconds. This has the potential to increase the number of guests we can serve during peak times by thirty percent. We have been tracking our results very closely, and it definitely will impact our restaurant design decisions in the future. We will continue to watch the trends, but guests are forming new habits in terms of drive-thru, mobile ordering, and delivery. There is an opportunity for a new restaurant design that will expand capacity for drive-thru and offer additional space designated for curbside. 

Occhiogrosso: Freddy’s was recently sold to Thompson Street Capital Partners. How will this acquisition be beneficial for franchisees? 

Redler: Like all of our decisions, this move was heavily informed by our commitment to our franchisees and our desire for continued positive growth. We knew that in order for this acquisition to benefit our franchisees, the group had to be the right fit. When we were introduced to the exceptional team at TSCP, it was apparent that our core values and company culture aligned, making them ideal for our Freddy’s family of team members, franchisees, and vendor partners. Our partnership with TSCP will benefit our franchisees through accelerated franchise development along with new investments in marketing and technology. 

Franchising and “Putting People First” Spurs On More Growth

Occhiogrosso: How do you see the company moving forward?

Redler: We are moving at full steam with franchise development opportunities this year and feel very fortunate that our momentum remained consistent despite the impact the pandemic has had on our industry over the past year. We hit our milestone 400th location in the end of 2020 and are showing no signs of slowing down, with a recent 50-unit deal signing promising a surge of growth in the South East and some exciting upcoming restaurant openings in Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas. We plan to open over 40 restaurants nationwide throughout the end of 2021. 

Occhiogrosso: What are the brand’s points of differentiation? In other words, if I am a potential franchisee, what is the answer to the “why Freddy’s” question?

Redler: At Freddy’s, we put people first. Our experience in previous restaurant ventures established our philosophy of treating Team Members, franchisees and vendors as partners and providing the roadmap and tools to help everyone succeed. Each member of our Freddy’s family plays an important part in the success of our brand, so potential franchisees know they will receive hands-on, invested assistance from our franchise support team and corporate office. We get to know our franchisees on a personal level and often turn to them for feedback and new ideas because we understand that we are strongest when we work together. When they join Freddy’s, they are not just joining a franchise system, they are joining a family, and we’re honored to have them on our team.  

As the founder of a consulting firm that develops new franchised restaurant concepts, I believe staying true to your mission, core values, and what inspired the brand’s creator is key to its success. I see too many inauthentic brands trying to be all things to all people and changing with every consumer’s whim then calling themselves adaptable while forgetting why the brand exists in the first place. Under Scott Redler’s direction, we can confidently say Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers cannot be accused of anything even remotely inauthentic.