Hwy 55 CEO Kenney Moore’s Greatest Struggle

Adapted from Behind the Drive

One day a few years ago, Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries CEO Kenney Moore’s youngest son, Dylan, and youngest daughter, Isabelle, were playing in the front yard on their trampoline. They were 11 and 13 at the time. It was a nice day, warm and sunny.

An argument began. Isabelle joked about Dylan somehow they don’t exactly remember. His feelings were hurt. She knew how to use her words, and he was sensitive.

He kicked her in the face.

Their mother, Kenney’s wife, Karen, usually handles the discipline, especially back then — Kenney was working a lot. It was a bad time. The company was in a lot of debt because Kenney had big-heartedly taken on a lot of debt created by bad franchisees. The bank was being astonishingly dense about the situation, not to mention greedy, and the future of the company was at stake. But this situation, she felt she had to take to Kenney.

inside_coverDylan told his father what he’d done.

“Why did you get so angry?” Kenney asked.

“Well, you get so angry,” Dylan said, and not in an accusatory way, but in that heartbreaking, innocent, wide-eyed-blinking way children say true things to their parents. He was just a boy, and all he knew was what his father showed him.

Kenney said, “You do not want to be like me. You do not want to be this.”

This was Kenney’s ungodly temper. For most of his life, he would react first, getting angry and lashing out. When he was fired from his first restaurant job and thus inspired to start Hwy 55, then Andy’s, he challenged the men who fired him to a fight. When he and Karen would argue, it often escalated into yelling matches that left her knees shaking. When the bankers kept treating him poorly, Kenney finally kicked them out of his office after one particularly bad meeting — cussing them out, slamming a door so hard it shook the building, and chasing them into the parking lot as his employees held him back.

In these and many other ways, Kenney’s temper nearly cost him everything. As I interviewed Kenney for hundreds of hours over the course of last year, what he realized was that there was something much deeper beneath that anger — there were deep, festering childhood wounds, wounds that had given birth to demons, demons that made him lose control.

Kenney Moore’s whole life, like the story in Behind the Drive, became an exercise in gaining control.

Behind the Drive covers these and many other failures, in detail so bare and honest at times it’ll make you cringe — but not just for voyeuristic shock value, just to write about scandalous things. Sure, Behind the Drive is a great, dramatic story about building a successful business, filled with drama and thrills and controversy as a business faces destruction and as Kenney fights to save it. It’s the stuff of good fiction, really.

But no, Kenney’s worst parts are put to beautiful use, an integral, fantastic part of a powerful, powerful narrative. Behind the Drive is more than just a business book. It’s a story about a man locked in an incredible struggle with his greatest demons.

And I can’t emphasize this enough: Kenney has so boldly put his soul out there for all to see, in a stunningly generous and brave display of honesty. It’s hard enough for some of us to be honest with the people closest to us about our struggles. Kenney has made his struggle public, for your benefit.

Like all such struggles … look, I can’t give anything away, but I will say that it’s public knowledge that, since Dylan and the trampoline and the fighting with the bankers, Hwy 55 has sold the rights to 1,000 stores worldwide and was just named the best franchise in the United States. The behind the scenes of all that, the stuff the book covers — it’ll make you ache, but in a good way.

You can buy the books on Amazon, in Hwy 55‘s everywhere (find a location near you here), and in Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. (They’ll be in more independent bookstores around the region, and Barnes & Noble, soon.)

If you already have a copy, please, help us spread the word. Kenney and I would appreciate it so much.

As always, thanks for reading.


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1 Response
  1. Lou Mindar

    Brandon — Any chance you’ll be coming out with an audio book?