WaBa Grill, a healthy rice bowl brand, is joining forces with one of its existing franchisees to expand its presence in Arizona.
Jerry Bajwa owns and operates 19 WaBa Grill locations in Southern California, as well as the only one in Arizona, with a Tempe location. As part of a new franchise agreement, he will open ten more locations in Arizona over the next seven years, beginning in Glendale.
The move is part of WaBa Grill’s strategic expansion plan, which has seen the company grow to nearly 200 locations since its inception in 2006. The Anaheim Hills, California-based company first expanded its presence in its home state, primarily in southern markets, and is now looking to steadily expand its presence in neighboring states.
According to Bajwa, Californians who have relocated to neighboring states will continue to contribute to the brand’s success.
“A lot of people are going to Arizona, that’s a big factor,” Bajwa said. “A lot of the people who made this brand successful in Southern California are now residents of Arizona. It’s also a wide-open area in terms of finding locations to develop more stores. It’s getting pretty tight in California, but it’s more of an open slate here.”
According to Steven Wang, Waba Grill’s director of real estate, development, and construction, the company will continue to expand in nearby West Coast states.
“We want to grow in a responsible way,” Wang said. “There are a lot of concepts out there that just grow wherever any franchisees reach out. That way of growing is somewhat difficult, and in some ways, we feel at WaBa Grill, irresponsible. We feel we can’t support our franchisees if it’s so far away and spread out. In terms of strategy, we want to be responsible and move eastward slowly.”
As part of that responsible growth, Wang said the brand sees an advantage in working with established franchisees.
“We have a great relationship with our existing franchisees,” Wang said. “Initially, we opened up these expansions to our current franchisees, and Jerry being one of our top franchisees immediately responded to the opportunity. We want to grow it with proven franchisees who have the top-notch operations and organization that they have in place.”
In addition to Arizona, WaBa Grill has franchisees committed to opening multiple locations in Texas and Nevada. Ranked No. 281 on the Franchise Times Top 500, the company had systemwide sales of $168 million in 2021.
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