The Franchise: Fort Collins, Colorado-based Cheba Hut is a marijuana-themed fast-casual restaurant chain known for its made-to-order toasted sub sandwiches, “munchies,” and full bar at most locations. Founded in 1998 by Scott Jennings, the company has expanded to about 40 locations in 14 states. It entered the Wisconsin market in 2013 with a location in Madison.
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Huhn and Gawlitta[/caption]
August 2020: Heather Gawlitta and Robert “RC” Huhn were on the hunt for the right business opportunity when Huhn received an email from Cheba Hut soliciting franchisees. He and Gawlitta did some research, including a drive to Cheba Hut’s Madison location to give the food a taste.
“We were intrigued by the fact that it’s not only a restaurant, but it’s a fast-casual restaurant with a really great vibe and high emphasis on how important your staff is,” said Gawlitta.
October 2020: The couple traveled to Fort Collins, where they met with company leaders at Cheba Hut’s corporate HQ and toured some recently opened locations. Within a week, the couple signed a three-unit franchise deal covering the Milwaukee area.
“Cheba Hut had responded quite quickly to make sure that they had a good app for customers to go to, but they also partnered with DoorDash for deliveries and that has helped them exponentially,” said Gawlitta, of how the restaurant chain has navigated COVID-19.
December 2020: Gawlitta and Huhn signed a lease for a 3,500-square-foot space on Milwaukee’s East Side. Out of several potential sites, this one on a busy corner stood out because of the surrounding neighborhood, proximity to UW-Milwaukee, and adjacent parking lot.
“The whole area fits that culture of the Cheba Hut restaurant. … There’s a lot of that chill culture. Our real estate broker, who lives in that area and has been working with retail real estate for over 30 years, considered this one of three areas that this would fit well,” said Huhn.
May 2021: Milwaukee’s first Cheba Hut will open for business at 2907 N. Oakland Ave. Gawlitta and Huhn have plans for a swift expansion. They expect to launch a second location in the first half of 2022, with the goal of opening a third by the end of that year.
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Cheba Hut will open at a former Blaze Pizza space on the corner of North Oakland Avenue and East Locust Street.[/caption]
The franchise fee: The initial fee to open a Cheba Hut franchise location is $99,000.