Mike and Leah Morrell, East Coast Wings Franchisees

Mike and Leah Morrell own an East Coast Wings and Grill franchise in Lynchburg, VA that they bought in 2018. They sat down with Franchise Business Review to tell us more about their franchising experience.

What was it about the franchise model and or leadership that led you to purchase it?

Awesome food and a great franchise model made the concept very attractive from day one. The corporate team knows the restaurant business well, and we knew that this was something the Lynchburg market did not have and needed. From there, the support provided by the leadership team throughout the entire selection process was a huge factor in our decision, and ultimately our success, with the group.

What type of business experience, education, and/or skills did you have prior to becoming a franchisee that you have found particularly helpful?

Our backgrounds in the nuclear industry are probably unique in the casual dining franchise space but, with so many years of management and leadership positions in the field, we understand how to operate within a system and execute with excellence. We may not know how to make everything in the kitchen, but we know how to create and manage a great team, and ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed to create the best product possible.

What do you like most about your job?

We’ve been part of this community for over 25 years and have come to know so many great people in this town. Every time we are in the restaurant, we see someone we know and, if we aren’t there, we hear from our employees that someone stopped in and said they knew us. People think of it as "Mike and Leah’s" place and we make sure everyone feels at home.

Adding to that, our employees make it fun to come to work every day and we are proud of the great culture we’ve built. We’ve added 45 jobs to the Lynchburg area and have a talented team that we support and encourage every day. For instance, Jeremi Sanchez joined us as a grill cook when we opened and showed enormous potential from the very beginning. Jeremi is now our assistant GM, and along with our GM Darrell Bryant, provides strong leadership to the operation.

How did you fund your franchise? Did you receive any discounts/incentives?

Most of our funding came from our savings along with a note through Stearns Bank (SBA loan).

What advice do you have for prospective franchise buyers? What do you wish you had known prior to going into franchising?

The biggest piece of advice is that every day is a new experience and there is a ton to learn on- the-job. It is awesome and rewarding, but you’ve got to be willing to put in the work, learn, and make mistakes. That said, once you’ve opened the restaurant and have your team and systems in place, it doesn’t get ‘easy’ but it does get ‘easier’ and that’s when things get fun. You’ve built your team, been through the opening madness, crazy lunch and dinner rushes and accomplished these huge feats together.

One early example for us was the ‘National Chicken Wing Day’ promotion just a couple of months after we opened. We learned that you need the right people in the right places and have to have a solid team. At the end of the day, we came in 3rd or 4th overall for the brand in sales; but we did it all ourselves. We didn’t have the corporate training team, it was all us and we realized ‘we’ve got this’! That day was the day that the lights went on.

Now, less than a year after opening, we have been selected as a test market for the brand to trial potential new menu items. To us, that is a testimony to the great work that we have done in Lynchburg and the awesome trust and support that we have gotten from the ECW+G team overall.

If you'd like to learn more about East Coast Wings and Grill franchise opportunities call 336-760-4985 or visit