Josh and Luke Bergeson are sons of a Subway restaurants owner, so it’s no surprise they followed in their father’s footsteps. The brothers now own Wisconsin’s only three MOOYAH locations — the newest of which is on the outskirts of the burgeoning Prairie Lakes development, at 695 S. Grand Ave.
MOOYAH is a fast casual restaurant chain headquartered in Plano, Texas, with locations in more than 20 states, and for the past 10 years the brand has been a mainstay on the annual “Top 100 Movers & Shakers” list maintained by Fast Casual magazine.
The Sun Prairie location opened March 25.
Both Bergeson brothers worked as Subway Sandwich Artists growing up, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse with business degrees and quickly realized they didn’t want office jobs. So they gravitated back to the family business.
Josh and Luke opened their first MOOYAH location, on State Street, in 2015, followed by one in Fitchburg.
Their father, Randy Bergeson, lives in Darlington, and operates three Subway shops in southwestern Wisconsin. He also is the third MOOYAH co-owner.
“We want to triangulate the market and capture the entire Madison area,” Josh, 30, said. “We started looking at Sun Prairie in 2015, because we could definitely see what was happening out here.”
MOOYAH is within walking distance of such other burger places as Monk’s Bar & Grill and Tipsy Cow, while Five Guys and the recently opened Portillo’s are on Madison’s far-east side.
Asked what sets MOOYAH apart from those competitors, the brothers cite the restaurant’s family-friendliness and customer service.
A “Make Your Mark” floor-to-ceiling chalkboard wall with a bucket of colored chalk encourages kids to draw or leave written messages, and the restaurant’s open and bright environment is conducive to conversation.
MOOYAH serves never-frozen beef, hand-cut fries (sweet potato ones, too), potato buns baked in-house, and shakes made with real ice cream. Gluten-free and multigrain options are available, as are turkey burgers, veggie burgers, lettuce wraps and Hebrew National kosher hot dogs.
“We did have some brand recognition already, which has helped us be consistently busy in Sun Prairie,” Josh said.
“We want that good word of mouth to continue,” Luke, 27, added, noting that MOOYAH employees are a close-knit group whose friendliness toward each other carries over to customers. “People know when they come to a MOOYAH in Madison, they’re going to get the best burger they’ve ever put in their mouth, served quick and in a clean and comfortable environment, with genuine service.”
Part of that environment in the Sun Prairie restaurant includes a large “Welcome to MOOYAH” sign on a wall near the entrance featuring images of Lambeau Field, Camp Randall Stadium and Sun Prairie High School athletes.
MOOYAH also is big on fundraisers, with a program that donates between 15 percent and 25 percent of an evening’s net sales to a partner organization. During the short time it’s been open, the Sun Prairie location has participated in fundraisers with groups from local high schools and elementary schools.
“Their job is to get people in the door who let us know they’re here for the fundraiser,” Josh said. “We’ll do the rest. That’s our favorite type of marketing.”
MOOYAH also donates free-food cards as prizes at local events, and all on-duty military personnel, firefighters, police and first responders receive a 50 percent discount.
“Sun Prairie residents take extreme pride in their community, and these things are important to us,” said Josh, who lives in the city with his wife and three young children.
As Wisconsin’s only MOOYAH franchisee, the Bergesons have been able to blaze their own trail in the state. Take, for example, their creation of the Badger Burger, served at all three MOOYAH locations and featuring a quarter-pound of certified Angus beef topped with cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese and Applewood smoked bacon, and served with special MOOYAH sauce (similar to thousand island dressing) on a potato bun.
“It’s kind of like a badger — aggressive with the pepper jack and sweet with the cheddar,” Luke said. “That’s as Wisconsin as it gets!”
Really hungry customers can ask for the off-the-menu Double Badger Burger, which boasts two quarter-pound patties and four slices of cheese.
The Sun Prairie location spans 2,400 square feet (larger than the State Street location and approximately the same size as the Fitchburg restaurant), and boasts about 25 employees.
Josh and Luke, who may consider opening additional MOOYAHs in the state, each play distinct roles in the success of the business. Josh handles the financials and behind-the-scenes operations, while Luke oversees employee hiring, training, and management and development.
The Bergesons also recently took over ownership of the Subway restaurant on Windsor Street in Sun Prairie.
“We have really good people we trust and who trust us,” Josh said about the challenge of opening one new restaurant and taking over operations of an existing one within such a short time frame. “It’s a lot to take on, but it’s good that we did.”