Meet Vice President of Operations Kari Combs

Superior franchisee support and a premium product build brand awareness and excellence for a legacy concept that is growing from coast to coast

Kari Combs is nearing a decade with Kahala Brands™ and is putting her franchise industry knowledge to work for Great Steak™ as Vice President of Operations. It’s a year of growth for the Great Steak franchise, with three new locations scheduled to open by early 2019. Combs is excited about our legacy brand’s continued stronghold as an easy-to-run business investment with world-class training and support, and a consistent fan favorite with delicious, high-quality food.


What are Great Steak’s growth plans for the next year?

Growth continues to be a focus for Great Steak, and we’re experiencing a lot of growth in 2018. We’re planning to launch three new locations this year alone, having already opened a new Virginia location. We’re currently working on opening two new restaurants in California slated for early next year. We are a brand that does well from coast to coast. People love a good cheesesteak!

What makes Great Steak an authentic cheesesteak experience?

The classic Philly cheesesteak is a comfort food. Great Steak uses quality meat, and customers trust that Great Steak will deliver on that comfort food promise. They expect that from our brand. With Great Steak customers also get dinner and a show — they get to watch their Great Steak sandwich being prepared in front of them. It’s fresh, it’s a product that they get to customize and watch it being prepared  to their liking. That is a huge plus with today’s consumers who love customization.

What makes Great Steak a good business for an entrepreneur without experience in the restaurant industry?

It’s definitely the simplicity of the brand. Great Steak is a concept with low overhead and one that requires minimal inventory. It also doesn’t require a large staff or a lot of prep. With the distribution that we have through Kahala Brands, franchisees don’t have to go out and research and find a certain product. This is just one example of the support that Kahala Brands provides, which is really a plus. We also have the entire network of franchisees who support one another. Really all investors have to do is open their restaurant. The support is amazing. Much of the research and development have been done for franchisees, along with the great product and training. The franchisee just has to run the business.

What kind of support does Great Steak provide?

As a Great Steak franchisee, the minute they decide to become a franchise owner with Kahala Brands, we are with them every step of the way — from finding a location to their grand opening. Franchisees spend a week doing 40 hours of training at our brand’s headquarters, and then they are trained in one of the existing locations so they are ready to go when they are ready to open their restaurant. The 40 hours of hands-on training shows them every aspect of running their restaurant. They have support for the rest of their franchise agreement. In other words, we are here for them all of the time

They also have support from other franchise owners. As a brand we are so lucky we have second- and third-generation franchise owners, which is great for Great Steak and Kahala Brands overall.

What makes a good Great Steak location?

The opportunity to develop mall and inline locations worldwide is vast. Great Steak has been at this for 35-plus years now. Our brand is definitely standing the test of time. Both types of locations are optimal, depending on the demographics. When a franchisee is searching for a potential location, we help them search for data that will help them determine what type of model works best. We look at demographics and competitors. We’ve been prevalent in malls for nearly four decades, and the market is still not saturated. People are looking for a great-quality cheesesteak, and there are not a lot of cheesesteak locations in malls. The need for Great Steak is definitely out there.

What are Great Steak’s differentiators?

Definitely the product and the great customer service, from the high-quality meat that we use to the three kinds of cheeses. The bread is always made fresh in-house. All these combined mean our brand’s product stands out on its own. We also consistently deliver on great customer service. Customers watch their sandwich being made; it’s not made on a rack or behind their back. And, of course, we offer great side items such as our loaded fries and fresh baked potatoes, but the cheesesteak is our bread and butter, so to speak.

Great Steak also has great franchisees. They are amazing, and they are the ones that keep this brand going. To see the extent to which franchisees will help each other with the brand is amazing.

What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your work at Kahala Brands?

I love working in the field, and I love our franchisees. Not only do they learn from us, we also learn from them because they have great ideas. My favorite thing is to see them succeed and see their crews succeed — and to witness the love that they have for the brand and pour into it every day. It takes a special kind of person to open every day and produce a great-quality product. I really love to work with the franchisees, and get to know them.  I highly respect them for also providing employment for their local community and delivering a great experience for customers.

What’s going on at the office today?

Today we are doing some R&D research to develop our limited-time offerings for next year. We run three LTOs a year. Kickin’ honey butter chicken or Top Dogs, hot dogs were our last LTO’s, and they did very well. There is always development going on for this brand! We follow trends to stay in the know and keep your guests interested and engaged. We think outside the box but stay true to our core brand.

Learn more about the Great Steak franchise

Great Steak is a low-cost investment opportunity in the $19 billion sandwich industry that boasts a proven business model. Since our brand’s founding in 1982, the Great Steak cheesesteak franchise family has grown to more than 50 locations nationwide as it partners with entrepreneurs who are passionate about bringing the classic American cheesesteak experience to their communities. Franchise owners enjoy the support not only of Great Steak’s top-shelf management team, but also that of Kahala Brands™, one of the most trusted names in franchising with more than 3,000 premier locations nationwide. Whether you’re looking to bring authentic cheesesteak sandwiches to a shopping mall near you or wanting to open a friendly neighborhood eatery, Great Steak offers the right opportunity. There’s never been a better time to open a Great Steak.

For in-depth details about the Great Steak franchise opportunity, request our free franchise report. You also can learn more by visiting our research pages.


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