HANFORD – A Central Valley restaurateur has been honored for his years of grilling up burgers.

Javier Gomez was recognized as Checkers & Rally’s “Franchisee of the Year” last month for his 12 Central Valley chain restaurants, including locations in Hanford and Selma.

“It was a really big honor,” Gomez said.

The Fresno-based entrepreneur said that while attending the annual award ceremony and conference in Orlando, Florida last month, he “put two and two together” as he began realizing that his franchise was going to be recognized. He was not told beforehand that he'd be getting the award in the more-than-5-locations category.

“Aside from just being a good business person, Javier is one of the best people you could meet,” said Checkers & Rally’s Franchise Development Director Robert Bhagwandat.  “He cares not just about his business, but his employees. You don’t find that too often in today’s business world.”

While profits and sales are certainly used in naming the Franchisee of the Year, Bhagwandat said that other factors go into it as well.

“Truth be told, you make money when you’re doing the right things in business,” Bhagwandat said. “

Starting as an employee at a SoCal Rally’s in 2000, Gomez purchased 11 restaurants in 2012 from a previous owner who was looking to retire.  Gomez added his newest restaurant, located in Bakersfield, last year. He owns locations in Madera, Porterville, Fresno and Clovis, among others.

The average franchisee owns about 2.5 restaurants, Bhagwandat estimated.

Gomez cites Rally’s unique menu as being a prime way the fast food chain separates itself from the competition.

“Any time I’m out with my family going grocery shopping or doing something out in public while wearing something from Rally’s, people will stop and tell me, ‘I love your fries.’ We are recognized by our fries. It’s a different kind of fry that you can’t get anywhere else,” he said.

Bhagwandat said his personal favorite menu item is the triple baconzilla burger, which is made up of just as much cheese and bacon as the kaiju namesake implies.

“People say, ‘why don’t you guys have salads on your menus?’ I’ll be honest with you. We’re the indulgent treat. We’re the late-night craving. That’s who we are and that’s what people look at us for,” he said.

Gomez, who admits his favorite menu item is the Big Buford, said that he’d like to see Rally’s locations pop up in Visalia and Tulare, adding that Hanford could use a second location.

New locations in the area may not be that far off according to Bhagwandat. The chain, which is comprised of nearly 900 restaurants, is hoping to add another 20 to the Valley.

The franchise has been focusing on expanding in NorCal and in the Valley over the last two years. New locations are opening in Merced, Modesto and Stockton while Sacramento will have two new locations by spring.  New restaurants are planned for Visalia and Hanford, but those are in preliminary stages and no time table is set at this time, though Bhagwandat is hoping for late 2020 or early 2021 openings. 

“Right now, these areas in Central California and Northern California are where the bigger opportunities lie not just for Javier, but for other new franchisees that want to get into the fast food world,” Bhagwandat said.

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Contact the reporter at pbowman@hanfordsentinel.com

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