African-American Entrepreneur Reaches $50M Milestone with 20 Airport Restaurants

Randy Hazelton, 43, is the CEO of H&H Hospitality, a Black-owned firm that operates concession booths and restaurants in major United States airports. He now owns over twenty different airport restaurants, employing approximately 100 people, after starting from zero and learning from his mistakes. He owns several Shake Shack and Auntie Anne’s locations, and his company is on course to make $50 million this year.

He moved around a lot as a kid growing up in a military family before settling in Atlanta. He attributes his father’s discipline to him. But, as a kid, Randy frequently skipped homework to play basketball because he thought it was more fun than sitting down and studying.

He recognized his bad behaviors as a youngster when he started a business and faced difficulties. He quit his job in 2006 to create Café Circa, a restaurant and bar in downtown Atlanta. While the company did well, it was inefficient, which led to bankruptcy. Randy understood the cause was that they were unfamiliar with the restaurant industry.

“We didn’t know how to make money because we didn’t do the homework,” Randy told Forbes. He sold Café Circa in 2012 and used the money to start his franchising operation.

Hazelton launched H&H Hospitality in 2007, and the company has thrived thanks to a government program called the Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Act (ACDBE), which assists minority and women-owned businesses at federally subsidized airports.

“It changed my life,” he said. He calls the program a “springboard” for smaller companies aiming to expand in restaurant franchising.

At Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, one of the busiest in the world, H&H has a Freshens yogurt and Famous Famiglia pizzeria. On another concourse, they’ve partnered with Concessions International to open a Shake Shack and an Auntie Anne’s restaurant. The company intends to build a Slutty Vegan, a popular plant-based burger brand owned by entrepreneur Pinky Cole, next year.

Furthermore, the business faces problems such as fees, advertising costs, and personnel management. Randy changed himself into a “homework nerd” and employed a copy-and-paste technique of what already works to overcome these obstacles and succeed.

“Borrow from other folks,” he says. “Some of the greatest successes are just copycats of something already here.”

Written by PH

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