The Lost Cajun’s Frisco location remains locally owned as brand sells to franchise consulting company
Restaurant to reopen for summer season soon
Like other businesses throughout the county, the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on The Lost Cajun. The company had three open restaurants — including the Breckenridge franchise — close. Also, two locations that were in the works didn’t get off the ground.
Founder Raymond Griffin said the company went into survival mode and declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy last April.
However, four other locations were able to open during the pandemic, such as one in Cañon City and more recently one in Rancho Cucamonga, California. The newest spot is the 26th of the eight-state franchise and the first in California.
Raymond Griffin started The Lost Cajun in 2010 and began franchising a few years afterward to spread its signature Louisiana dishes. Last year, the 67-year-old passed on the business to his granddaughter, Dakota Griffin, and her boyfriend, Zachary Beeler, for what Raymond Griffin called a trial period.
Raymond Griffin said she ended up preferring being an employee to an employer, so the Frisco restaurant is back in his hands. He still lives in North Carolina and operates the restaurant remotely like he has for roughly the past five years.
Yet as of late April, the brand and larger operations are now owned by Robert Stidham, founder and chief executive officer of Summa Franchise Consulting. Raymond Griffin and Stidham began talking in February.
“It’s the right time for me to exit out of the business and enjoy the rest of my life,” Raymond Griffin said.
Stidham said he has 35 years of experience with franchising and he started his own company, Summa, about 17 years ago. About 40% of the consulting business is in the restaurant space. Summa began investing in companies like health care and fashion retail directly around five years ago, though this is the company’s first direct acquisition.
“Because of the unique nature of our consulting business, we have tremendous resources we can bring to a franchise,” Stidham said.
The challenge going forward is to reestablish the franchising pipeline that dried up during the pandemic. No new openings are planned at the moment, but within the next three to four years, Stidham said their goal is to have over 100 stores open. Growth was always planned before Summa came into the picture, and while it won’t be a large chain on every corner, Stidham called the goal attainable with proper partnerships with franchisees that want to make an impact in their community.
“We have significant aspirations to make this, over time, a 300- to 500-unit restaurant brand where we still have the ability to keep the relationship with our guests and to spread our culture of kindness and happiness through both our guest experience and the food that we serve in our restaurants,” Stidham said.
While the headquarters of Summa are in Arizona, Stidham created the Colorado-based Happy Cajun Hospitality LLC to run the franchise and spice company. Summa also owns the Slidell, Louisiana, location that will be used to train staff and test items like the cash register system.
“We named the company in (Raymond Griffin’s) honor because he is the happiest Cajun I’ve ever met, with a great smile.”
That smile will still be on the company’s Swamp Salt and other products. Raymond Griffin is staying on as consultant along with owning the Frisco location. Stidham also stressed that Summa is a family-owned business and he doesn’t deal with a board or private equity.
“We’re not going to McDonald-fy The Lost Cajun,” Stidham said. “That’s silly. It would never work. You would destroy this business.”
Raymond Griffin said the Frisco restaurant will reopen following its seasonal closure around May 15. He said it will be just like before and guests won’t see burgers, pizzas or other menu changes.
“If we move away from who we are, we’re going to move backwards, not forwards,” Stidham said.
Initially, the hours will be Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until about mid-June and then seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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