What's In Store

Ex-NFL player plans to apply football experience to running a new uptown restaurant

Famous Toastery
Famous Toastery

A former NFL fullback without any restaurant experience is behind the new breakfast restaurant opening in the heart of uptown next March.

Justin Griffith, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2003, sees franchising a restaurant concept like Famous Toastery sort of like learning a playbook. He did that as a player for eight years in the NFL, then he taught the playbook for four more years as a coach, most recently with the Oakland Raiders.

Griffith’s Famous Toastery, a chain that started in Huntersville, will be a two-level breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant in the Charlotte Chamber building, 330 S. Tryon. Designed with busy professional customers in mind, Griffith’s location will have a grab-and-go menu on its upper level, and a sit down area with a bar in its bottom level.

Griffith left his most recent NFL job as the Raiders’ offensive quality control coach in 2015, and soon started looking for something “more stable.” He first learned about franchising at a seminar called “Ascending Athletes,” designed to educate professional athletes on business skills as they transition out of their respective leagues.

“It made sense to me. Here’s this product, you have the groundwork already laid. The one thing you have to do as a business owner is learn the playbook, learn the system,” Griffith said.

After Oakland, Griffith, his wife and three young sons moved to Harrisburg, where she’s from. The Griffiths were first introduced to Famous Toastery in spring 2015 in Concord, en route to dropping their son off at day care. They loved the concept, Griffith said, and the 7 a.m.- 3 p.m. hours, which would give him time to spend with his family.

“It’s got a hometown feel. I’m not from Charlotte, but I like supporting the hometown businesses,” Griffith said.

He went online and filled out a franchising application, and soon after, co-founder Robert Maynard called him up. Maynard and his business partners scout locations before they have franchisees on board, so the uptown location was in need of a team at the time.

“NFL aside and competition aside, (Griffith) wants to follow what we’re doing. If you can do it over and over, it’s a fit. That uptown space, it’s walking distance to the baseball stadium, Bank of America Stadium, the Hornets (Spectrum Center). It’s very sports-driven, and it will be very cool for him to be running the store.”

Griffith, who says his loyalties are split between the Carolina Panthers and the Falcons, says he’d like to one day be a resource for other professional athletes as they leave their sports careers.

“This is a new challenge. It’s not the same, but it's a new challenge. I love being around people, I love talking to people and I love operating systems. I love the teamwork of it.”

The uptown Famous Toastery will be the chain’s 20th area location when it opens. Construction is set to begin in December, and Griffith is targeting an opening date of March 3 or 10.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta