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Shuckin’ Shack CEO Reveals How Franchising Thrives on Team Culture

Shuckin' Shack Franchise

Jonathan Weathington talks about building a strong internal culture – and what it takes for a restaurant franchise to succeed.

Ask any seasoned franchisor and they’ll likely tell you: there is no single recipe for success in franchising.

Still, there are plenty of common ingredients that go into the making of any thriving franchise system. From establishing a firm legal foundation to creating a franchise operations manual, building a growth-oriented franchise system from the ground up requires time, dedication and hard work. It also requires a strong brand culture centered around shared values – something the team at Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar, a sustainable seafood concept headquartered in Wilmington, North Carolina, is deeply familiar with.

“We’re culturally driven. And it’s not something we put on paper and then decided to follow. It’s something that we pursued that ended up on paper,” says CEO Jonathan Weathington, who helped develop the franchise brand as its first corporate team member.

With locations in seven states (and counting), Shuckin’ Shack’s culture – built on a goal of creating a fun, authentic and welcoming place to eat and work – is a key part of the brand’s success as a franchise.

“We know we've created this unique brand. It's cool, it's fun. We're about having fun. We're about being authentic. We're about accepting anybody that wants to walk through our doors – and that's our primary purpose. We just have to deliver it in the restaurant space,” Weathington says.

Weathering the risks … and reaping the rewards

For business owners who decide to take the leap, Weathington says the key to franchise success is all about being comfortable with taking risks – and being aware of your limitations.

“You’ve got to know yourself. You’ve got to know what you can handle. You’ve got to know where you can push and where you can pull and where you need help. It is extremely difficult,” Weathington says.

That process includes hiring a strong corporate team, differentiating the brand from its competition (Weathington estimates that over 90% of communities in the U.S. don’t have any businesses similar to Shuckin’ Shack), and building a culture in which franchisees can thrive.

Despite the risks, Weathington says the rewards of franchising are clear every day when he looks at the franchisees whose lives have been transformed by Shuckin’ Shack.

“We have a franchisee in our system that was in the restaurant business … for almost two decades as a general manager, as an assistant general manager, as a training store. From a financial standpoint, (they) never made more than $60 or $70 grand a year – for almost two decades. That franchisee now is one of our top performing stores in the system,” Weathington says, adding that today that franchisee brings in “far more, I'm sure, than they ever imagined they would ever make in a single year.”

For Weathington, it’s stories like those that make Shuckin’ Shack a real success story.

“To see the transformation – not just from a financial standpoint, but they're just a different person. They're a different person. They give back to the community. They participate in their community. They're generous to their employees. At this point, they're a multi-unit owner – they employ 60 people. You know, it's awesome,” Weathington says.

To learn about franchising opportunities with Shuckin’ Shack, visit

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