Hamra Enterprises


Hamra Enterprises strives to revolutionize the restaurant industry.

By Alan Dorich

Hamra Enterprises has thrived for more than four decades thanks to its culture, President and CEO Mike Hamra says. “One of my favorite things to say is, ‘We sell hamburgers, french fries, soups, salads and noodle dishes, but our business is people,’” he states.

Based in Springfield, Mo., the company operates 162 restaurants, including Wendy’s, Panera Bread and Noodles & Co. locations, and a Holiday Inn Express hotel. The firm started operations in 1975, when Hamra’s father, Sam Hamra, became a Wendy’s franchisee in Southwest Missouri soon after his brother and cousin became franchisees with their own territories.

“Today, we’re the only remaining family members in the business,” Mike Hamra says, noting that Hamra Enterprises became a Panera franchisee in 1998 and a Holiday Inn franchisee in 2000. “We joined Noodles & Co. four years ago.”

The company owes its longevity to its focus on revolutionizing the restaurant industry, Hamra says. “Our commitment is to make a difference in the experience that our customers have,” he states.Hamra Fact Box

This has paid off for Hamra Enterprises, which enjoys strong repeat business in its locations. “We have a lot of guests that use our restaurants on a daily basis for gatherings, regardless of the brand,” he says.

This is largely driven by the relationships customers have formed with employees, Hamra adds. “It’s often that I will visit stores and meet guests who know the manager’s name,” he says.

In turn, those managers remember the guests’ favorite orders, Hamra adds. “There’s a lot of great examples of times when guests walk through the doors, and they will have those orders ready for them,” he says.

Keeping Fresh

Hamra Enterprises faces more competition in its industry. “The challenge is in remaining relevant to our guest,” Hamra says, noting that the company manages this through refresh and remodel programs at its locations.

“We’re certainly doing that in the Wendy’s brand,” he says, noting that it has remodeled Panera locations as well. “We believe in investing back in the brand and keeping those physical assets fresh so our guests feel good about the value they’re getting in those stores.”

The company also invested in technology that allows it to interface with customers through digital platforms. “We want to make sure guests can order products and pay for it on their mobile device,” Hamra says.

“In our Panera system, we’re also looking at the introduction of kiosks,” he adds. “We’ve rolled out two of those in the past month.”

Award-Winning Operators

Hamra Enterprises has won awards for its work, including the Dave Thomas Founders’ Award from Wendy’s in 2009. “It’s an award we’re very, very proud of,” Hamra says. “It’s only given to a single franchisee in the system each year.”

The company also is a repeat winner of the Torch Bearer Award from InterContinental Hotels Group for its Holiday Inn Express location. The awards are given “based on guest experience and the performance of the hotel,” he says. “It’s certainly something we’re very proud of. It’s not our core business, but we have a great operator.”

Helping Hand

Hamra Enterprises has nurtured staff longevity. “We have a really good-sized group of employees that have been with us over 15 years,” Mike Hamra says.

“I’m proud of employees that work for the company who make Hamra their career,” he says. “That speaks to how we treat people and the kind of culture we’ve formed in the business.”

The company supports its team through The HERO Fund, a non-profit organization that is managed by Hamra staff members. “The fund supports employees in times of need, such as extended medical leave and funeral expenses,” Hamra describes.

For every dollar employees contribute, “We match it,” he says, noting that the fund also helps provide transitional housing for survivors of domestic abuse. “We’ve been able to support employees by sending them over $400,000.”

Hamra Enterprises plans to continue growing its business as well as its brands, Hamra says. “We’ll also continue to focus on the most important part of our business which is our people, so they can provide extraordinary experiences for the guests that visit us every day,” Hamra says.

Sidebar: A Good Match

Hamra Enterprises is careful when looking at brands to add to its franchise portfolio, President and CEO Mike Hamra says. “Certainly, we look at the ability of the concept to remain relevant over long periods of time and whether it is a good fit for us,” he says.

The company primarily looks at fast food and quick-service restaurants, he notes. “This insures a match between how the business is run from the franchisors’ perspective and how we run our own business,” Hamra says.


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