After 75 years, Fosters Freeze seeks to expand outside California; Reno a likely franchise location

RENO, Nev. — Brothers Neal Dahya and Nimesh Dayha, co-owners of Fosters Freeze, a longtime California-based ice cream and fast-food chain, hear it all the time from people who’ve moved out of the Golden State.

“We get quite a bit of folks through emails and social media saying, ‘When are you going to open one around us?’” said Neal Dahya, president and CEO.

After all, the 75-year-old Fosters Freeze brand could be called California’s first fast-food chain, and likely receive flavor favoritism over Dairy Queen by many state natives. To date, there are 65 Fosters Freeze outposts, all located in California.

The Dahya brothers, however, are charting plans to expand their footprint beyond the Golden State into Arizona and Nevada — and Reno is one of the cities circled on their map.

“We know many people who grew up with Fosters Freeze are seeking a bite of nostalgic ice cream flavors and tasty hamburgers, and that makes the state (of Nevada) and Reno an ideal market,” Neal said. “That, and the added ease of logistics and distribution capabilities.”

Noting the company is in the early stages of expansion plans, Nimesh Dahya, VP of brand growth strategy, said they don’t yet know how many franchises they plan to bring to Reno or which neighborhoods they see as the best fit for the chain.

Nevada-wide, he said Fosters Freeze is projecting to plant 12-15 franchises between the Reno and Las Vegas and Henderson markets.

“Once we start the conversations with the correct market partners, then we can dive into what they plan and what their vision is for the future expansion,” Nimesh added.

Neal, 36, and Nimesh, 34, have been motivated to expand Fosters Freeze — established in 1946 in Inglewood — since acquiring the company in June 2015.

Previously, the brothers had worked as franchisees with nearly 200 restaurant franchise locations under nationwide brands like Burger King, IHOP and Pizza Hut.

Since the 2015 acquisition, the brothers have remodeled many Fosters Freeze locations, updated company colors and packaging, streamlined the supply chain, and introduced a new logo and store designs.

Five and a half years later, Pomona-headquartered Fosters Freeze’s revenue has annually increased, including a 20% jump during the pandemic, despite indoor dining in California being widely prohibited since COVID hit in March.

“Our model was built upon walk-up and drive-thru (traffic),” Nimesh said. “We were naturally equipped to handle the pandemic when they shut down indoor dining.”

The brothers said new locations planted in Reno would incorporate the company’s new modern store designs. The location will dictate whether new franchises will be a stand-alone restaurant, confections restaurants and/or co-located restaurants.

Each new restaurant, they said, will create between five to 12 jobs, dependent on the footprint.

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