MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. — Kenny Moore always hoped to expand his popular '50s-themed burger restaurants – formerly called Andy's Burgers, Shakes & Fries – beyond his home base of eastern North Carolina.
But the Goldsboro resident never dreamed he'd be looking at 15 locations in the Middle East.
The local chain plans to open in Abu Dhabi, the coastal capital of the United Arab Emirates.
The business opportunity of a lifetime began as a quirk.
Earlier this year, Moore entered a bracketed competition sponsored by BurgerBusiness.com, an industry marketing website. Despite his entry as a 16th-seed underdog, Moore won.
The victory caught the attention of Allied Brothers Co., an investment group in Abu Dhabi that recruited Moore to expand there.
Moore said he has committed to 15 restaurants with an option for another 70 in other locations across the Middle East.
It's an "American dream fulfilled," says Moore, who opened the burger joint in 1991 after being fired from another job in the restaurant business.
It's a new start for Moore and a new name for Andy's, which is now called Highway 55.
Moore had to change the name in order to get a federal trademark required for domestic expansion. He said he wanted to keep the original moniker because it was named after his son, but "Andy" was already trademarked by another company in Missouri.
"We’ve moved past the personal side and decided we can have some fun with the Highway 55 name in kind of a Route 66 way," he told BurgerBusiness.com. "We can have fun and, at the same time, I say our name doesn’t define us. Our people and our culture do."
Highway 55 has more than 100 restaurants statewide and has plans to add nearly 300 stores and 6,000 employees as it expands into Virginia, South Carolina and Florida in the next seven years.