Matt Rusconi, who recently added a hot new tech franchise to his two restaurant brands, has a refreshing attitude toward work: he loves it.
“There’s something rewarding about being productive,” he says. “It’s challenging and never-ending, but it’s important to do it while you have the energy so that, like an aging athlete, you can be in the game longer.”
Rusconi, who owns three Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes and will have 14 Moe’s Southwest Grills by year-end, was interested in pursuing a new venture when he came across Experimac, a concept focused on Apple product repairs and upgrades, pre-owned sales, and trade-ins. (Experimac is one of United Franchise Group’s eight brands.)
“Experimac opened my eyes to a whole different world,” says Rusconi, 39, who, with his partner, has built 20 restaurants in Connecticut and New Jersey in 9 years. They opened their first Moe’s in 2008 and their first Mooyah in 2012.
“I know that people appreciate value and want to know they’re dealing with a trustworthy business. Experimac lends itself to both of those. Online, there are hundreds of ways to get computers—eBay, Amazon, Craig’s List,” he says. “You’ve got to know what’s going on. If you become part of a community and people know they’re not going to get scammed, there’s something there. We’re trying to get ahead of that idea and see where it goes.”
Whether it’s burritos, burgers, or iPhones, Rusconi says he operates his diverse brands with the same business philosophy. “I see myself as a facilitator, a coach, a mentor. I want to give people the opportunity to do their jobs. I don’t micro-manage but I want to be there to work with them, side by side. For example, today we’re moving restaurant equipment, so I’m out there lugging stuff out. They could do it without me, but I’m there to help because I want them to know there is no position that is below anyone. Yesterday we had a big sponsorship with UConn women’s basketball, which had just won 100 straight games, and we offered $5 Burrito Day at Moe’s. I worked in a store for three hours.”
It’s been a challenge to learn when to “put the spatula down,” as Rusconi puts it. “I like to know I’ve done what they do and I hope they’re doing it better than I am, but I can’t be in 80 places at once. I’ve learned to manage on a higher level.”
Part of that higher level is ensuring that his companies are part of the local community. All his businesses are involved in charitable work and supporting local sports programs. “Giving back is about more than business. It’s about contributing to the families and institutions that make up the communities in which we operate,” say the Connecticut native.
When he was an NYU communications and marketing student, Rusconi served as an intern at Martin Scorcese’s production company before returning home to be near family, study for his MBA, and raise his own family. Looking ahead, he sees himself someday acting as an investor and mentor to young, talented entrepreneurs. One lesson he’ll teach them, no matter what their interests:
“Do the right thing before legislation says you have to. You’ll be better off in the end.”