The two opened their first Huddle House in Newton six months ago. Initially, they planned five of the restaurants over the next four years. The success of the Newton restaurant has caused them to change their plans, though.
“Just based on its success, it seems silly to build one a year,” Key says. “This is such an inexpensive place to dine in, we’re seeing record sales. . . . So we’ve accelerated it.”
They’re planning about 14 of the restaurants in Kansas.
This is the first time the half-century-old chain has come to the state. The 24-hour diner has what Key describes as everything from breakfast food to comfort food.
There are more than 400 Huddle Houses, mostly in the southeast.
Originally, Key and Lee planned to make Hutchinson their second Huddle House site. They chose El Dorado instead because “just enough people from the city and potential customers were calling and asking,” Key says. “We’re seeing which communities reach out to us. I think that’s a safer way to play it.”
So far, he says, no one from Wichita has called. Key and Lee live here, though, and he says it’s just a matter of time before they open a Huddle House in Wichita.
Key and Lee also are looking at another franchise possibility and checking into developing their own concept as well.
“The more we can do in a community, there’s some synergistic savings,” Key says.
“Everything has to be right. In other words, there’s no rocket science to operating a restaurant. You’ve got to give people what they want. Every community is different.”