Top 10 American Franchises

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Never Too Late: How a Part-Time Serving Job Led this Father of Four to Multi-Unit Ownership


 Will Gardner, Angry Crab Shack franchise owner in Happy Valley, San Tan Valley and Casa Grande, AZ

When it comes to career goals, some people have been following their dreams ever since they can remember, while others discover new passions along the way. Will Gardner had bounced around a few career options over the years. From working at the University of Phoenix to becoming a solar salesman, he’d never even considered entrepreneurship until he realized how much the restaurant business meant to him.



Discovering His Passion for the Restaurant Business

Over the years, Will worked just about every job there was in different restaurants- from dishwasher and various cooking positions to front of house roles like busser, server, shift leader, barback and bartender. When he attended his friend’s soft opening of the Angry Crab Shack franchise in Mesa, AZ, he found himself amazed by how truly unique the concept was.

He’d fallen in love with Cajun-Creole flavors after working on a riverboat in New Orleans, but he’d never experienced an Asian-Cajun twist like Angry Crab Shack’s. The restaurant featured seafood boils that you could customize to any kind of Cajun or Asian flavor and heat level – even his four kids were head over heels for the high-energy seafood franchise!

“Not only was the food amazing, but the environment itself just draws you in,” he said. “I could feel the buzz and excitement around me and we all loved the ongoing party that is Angry Crab Shack!”

When Will’s friend asked if he wanted to be involved with opening a second location, he jumped at the opportunity. He trained at the Mesa location before starting as a part-time server in Phoenix. As the restaurants reached new heights and Angry Crab Shack opened more locations in the area, Will began to consider a new career path in the industry he loved so much.

Climbing the Ladder of Success

Will assisted the Angry Crab Shack team with opening two additional locations as he worked his way up to key manager and later, general manager. He continued to work at the restaurants part-time until he returned to the corporate world selling solar equipment.

After nearly two years away from the restaurant business, he knew it was time for a change. He didn’t see as many growth opportunities in sales as he’d been hoping for, and he was lacking the passion he had when working at Angry Crab Shack.

While he’d always seen those restaurant jobs as a supplement to whatever he was doing full-time, he knew there was potential for so much more. The more he thought about his long-term career goals, solar sales were not at the top of his list… but a beloved seafood franchise was.

Turning a Closed Door into a Window of Opportunity

Upon reflecting on what he wanted out of his career, he left the world of sales and got in touch with some old friends of his – Ron Lou, Founder & CEO and Andy Diamond, President of Angry Crab Shack. They sat down and discussed details of the investment opportunities available at the rapidly-growing franchise. Having seen the brand’s growth first-hand, Will was confident in his decision to become an Angry Crab Shack restaurant franchisee.

In 2019, he invested in a new location in Happy Valley, an area in North Phoenix. After he made back his investment within only a year, he purchased ownership in two additional locations in San Tan Valley and Casa Grande.

Will’s family was equally as excited when he began this new chapter. All four of his sons, who had loved Angry Crab Shack since the first time they visited, began working at his restaurants and still do to this day!

Sailing Through Economic Uncertainty

As a first-time entrepreneur, Will was eager to learn the ins and outs of the restaurant business. His diverse experience as an employee and a manager gave him the insight needed to master in-store operations.

“I knew Angry Crab Shack’s business model was solid just from working there and seeing the success of each restaurant,” said Will. “I also knew I had a corporate team I could count on to lead me to success.”

A key part of Angry Crab Shack’s proven business model is a real estate strategy emphasizing second generation sites, a strategy employed by Will and his partners when they opened their first Angry Crab Shack. Will cites this as a key reason for being able to reinvest so quickly in his second and third locations.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, it introduced new challenges that even the most seasoned restaurant professionals had not experienced. Will credits Angry Crab Shack’s structure and business practices that enabled it to navigate the pandemic and come out a stronger brand. 

“Angry Crab Shack seized the opportunity to improve restaurant operations while their strong vendor relationships and negotiation tactics helped all franchise partners better manage food costs and waste while avoiding inventory shortages,” Will explained.

Making Waves in the Community

Other than working with his sons, the most rewarding part for Will has been the impact he’s made on the community through his restaurants. Over the years, he has participated in various philanthropy opportunities. From discounts to fundraisers, he’s used his restaurants to support those who deserve it most- like first responders, veterans and educators.

He also regularly supports Phoenix Children’s Hospital, to which his restaurants donate $1 for every sale of Cajun fries. One of his favorite memories was when he helped collect donations to the hospital over the phone during one of their dial-a-thons.

Every day, he is thankful to be a part of a franchise that truly cares about the communities they serve. Last year alone, Angry Crab Shack donated over $325,000 to various organizations and provided over 120,000 meals to Phoenix area families in need.

Today, Will is looking forward to opening additional Angry Crab Shack locations in new Colorado territories.

“It’s crazy to think that serving at Angry Crab Shack was originally just a part-time job to help me pay off some debt and now I’m growing my very own restaurants every day,” Will explained.

Will’s story just goes to show that closing one chapter is not the end to your story, and it is never too late to follow your entrepreneurial dreams.

Angry Crab Shack franchise owner in Happy Valley, San Tan Valley and Casa Grande, AZ


Prior to becoming a multi-unit franchise owner, Will worked nearly every job there is in the restaurant industry- from dishwasher to bartender. After starting as a server at Angry Crab Shack and taking a brief hiatus to work in sales, he took over the Happy Valley, AZ location in 2019 followed by two additional ones in San Tan Valley and Casa Grande.