UFood Grill

u food

UFood Grill thrives by having a menu of meals all 700 calories or less, made with all natural ingredients.

By Alan Dorich

Many large restaurant brands are making the move to healthier products, but UFood Grill has been there since the very beginning, CEO Sal Rincione says. “We’ve been doing that since day one,” he says. “We’re the leader in this segment.”

Based in Burlington, Mass., UFood Grill operates quick-serve restaurants (QSR) that serve meals made with all-natural ingredients. “We have grass-fed beef, free-range poultry and tiger shrimp,” Rincione says.

UFood Grill started operations in the late 1990s, but Rincione, who is also the senior vice president of Healthy Acquisitions Corp., discovered the concept in 2013. “I decided to capitalize on it,” he recalls, and Healthy Acquisitions purchased the company.UFood Fact Box

UFood Grill’s menu features burgers, wraps, paninis and flatbreads, entrees and salads. “We cater to all dietary needs and restrictions,” Rincione says, noting that it has many locations located in U.S. Air Force bases, as well as airports and colleges.

Rincione, who is a veteran, notes that the company recently opened a new location at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. “[We also opened] a premier, 2,500-square-foot location at Liberty University in Fredericksburg, Va.,” he adds.

UFood Grill also is in negotiations on a corporate store in Long Island, N.Y. “This brand is very versatile,” Rincione says, noting that its locations can range from 300 to 3,000 square feet in size.

They can include a juice bar, beer and wine bar, or a drive-thru depending on the space. “We’re definitely a force to be reckoned with,” he says.

Above the Competition

UFood Grill has earned Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) certification, which sets it apart in its market, Rincione says. The United States Healthful Food Council developed REAL as a mark of excellence for food and foodservice operations.

“Not many QSRs are REAL certified,” he says. “They send nutritionists to your locations and they leave no stone unturned.”

UFood Grill also distinguishes itself through its menu. “We have gluten-free options and vegan options, as well as vegetarian options, all 700 calories or less,” he says. It also caters to the health-conscious through self-serve kiosks provided by Nextep Systems. “You can punch in your order and it will tell you calorie and sodium count.”

Everything on UFood Grill’s menu is baked, broiled or steamed, Rincione adds. “We don’t have any fryers in our stores,” he says. “Our Unfries and our sweet potato fries are baked. It definitely sets us above our competition.”

Strong Support

Rincione has extensive experience in the food industry. “I was one of the founders and the vice president of development for Red Mango,” he recalls. “At one point, I built 350 Red Mangos in North and South America, as well as 100 in Mexico.”

Today, Rincione’s wife, Samantha, joins him at UFood Grill as its vice president of franchise development. “She understands the needs of a franchisee,” he says, noting that the company provides a strong support system to its franchisees.

“We give you 100 percent support from the time you sign that agreement to 10 years on the contract,” he says. The UFood Grill staff is available to franchisees 24-seven. “I personally work with every franchisee,” Rincione says.

Rincione considers himself a “developer” in this role. “I develop brands and I also develop relationships,” he says. “The military taught me many of the core values that I instill, such as treat everyone with dignity and respect as well as exceed expectations.”

UFood Grill looks for brand enthusiasm when it recruits franchisees. “Passion goes a long way,” he says. “You also have to have some business acumen, [but] they don’t necessarily have to have restaurant experience.”

The company can help recruit franchisees with an experienced restaurant manager as well as bookkeeping services through BookKeeping Express. “They could successfully run a UFood because of the systems we have in place,” Rincione says.

Slow and Steady

Rincione predicts more growth for UFood Grill. “I definitely see us expanding on our non-traditional portfolio as well as building many, many street stores,” he says. “I want to build out as well as venture out of the Northeast.”

The company plans to take its concept international. “I’m in negotiations with a group in China,” Rincione notes, He recently held a presentation for a group of investors from China.

The company has only 17 locations at the moment, but “I’m trending very favorably to get to the 100 in the next five years,” he says. “I believe slow and steady wins the race.”

But Rincione does not want UFood Grill to saturate a single market. “I think there’s plenty of room for growth, but I want to make sure my franchisees are successful,” he says. “Every franchisee will get a really favorable, protected area once they sign an agreement with us.”

 

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