EMBA strategy team assesses expansion opportunities for popular Nashville chain

For students in the Executive MBA Program, the capstone strategy project is one of several unique immersive chances to apply lessons from the classroom to challenges posed by real businesses.

Edley’s fare includes brisket, pork, chicken, and ribs

The Client: Edley’s, a fast-casual BBQ restaurant chain with three locations in Nashville, is a “tribute to all things Southern.” The proprietor, Will Newman, built the restaurant as a testament to the hard work and unfailing hospitality of his grandfather, Edley Newman.

The Project: After quickly growing to three locations within Nashville, Newman and his team were interested in bringing his distinctive offering to other parts of the country. Newman asked a team of four EMBA students (Alice Little, Matt Kidder, Joshua Hughes, and Steele Hutto) to analyze opportunities for expansion through a regional franchising strategy.

The Edley’s C-Team – Hutto, Hughes, Little, Kidder (L to R)

The Analysis: The team took a deep dive into Edley’s numbers, looking at the chain’s startup costs, financials, menu, and consumer insights. They supplemented the internal data with additional research at the Walker Management library as well as several demographic studies. “The process was about creating a framework,” said Hughes, “and diving into our questions to deliver data-driven answers.”

Using factors like demographics and ROI, the Vanderbilt team analyzed seven markets within a four- or five-hour drive from Nashville, including Lexington, Ky., where a developer had approach Newman about opening a location. In the end, the Vanderbilt team recommended Lexington as its top priority.

“What sealed the deal about Edley’s proceeding with the Lexington location was the analysis done by the team.” – Will Newman, Edley’s

The Impact: “We took the team’s recommendations very seriously,” Newman said. “What sealed the deal about Edley’s proceeding with the Lexington location was the analysis done by the team.” Edley’s opened in Lexington earlier this year, and last month opened another location in Chattanooga.

The Feedback: “The team members were all extremely professional and eager to learn more about how they could be of service,” added Newman. “It was a great project from beginning to end.”