Atlanta-based entrepreneur Dennis McKinley is the owner of Cru Hemp Lounge, which is now the largest black-owned nightlife chain and largest hookah lounge chain in the United States
Cru holds locations in Atlanta, Georgia (in Lilburn, Edgewood, Peter Street and Midtown); Houston, Texas; and Charlotte, North Carolina.
“CRU Hemp Lounge, which was created over 10 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, is a fast-casual hookah-hemp lounge offering unique hookah flavors, hemp oil extracts, small plates and specialty cocktails,” McKinley said. “We have grown exponentially over the past couple of years, and we are excited to be the largest hookah lounge in the United States.”
By combining hookah with a CBD element in a casual dining, lounge atmosphere, the restaurant has become a celebrity hot spot and has developed the winning recipe for success.
“CRU Hemp Lounge isn’t your standard bar or nightclub,” he adds. “It is a lifestyle lounge that is catching the eye of not only the patrons but franchise developers alike.”
McKinley is also the owner of The Original Hot Dog Factory. The hot dog franchise has four locations in metro Atlanta and 11 other locations throughout the country.
He’s credited with opening 15 hot dog franchises in 90 days during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with at least six new locations coming soon.
“We’ve been lucky to be able to continue to grow despite the pandemic, as we were well-positioned for the changing consumer demand in the restaurant space,” McKinley told 1851 Franchise. “Most notably, our model wasn’t actually hurt by COVID because a large percentage of our business relies on take-out.”
In a similar fashion, CRU plans to expand even more this summer. New locations are set to open in metro Atlanta on Old National Hwy and in Marietta, Alpharetta and Morrow.
Additionally, locations will open in Memphis, Tennessee; Austin and Dallas, Texas; Washington D.C.; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Birmingham, Alabama; Miami, Florida; Macon, Georgia; and Phoenix, Arizona.