Meet Bobby Pancake, celebrating High 5 Hospitality’s 20 years

Pam GeorgeCulture, Headlines


Bobby Pancake, right, started his fast food career by working at a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in West Virginia.

Bobby Pancake has heard it all.

The CEO of Newark-based High 5 Hospitality is accustomed to people commenting on his last name, especially since High 5 operates Eggspectation, a Christiana-area restaurant famous for breakfast and brunch.

How does he handle it?

“I deal with it the same way Kevin Bacon deals with it,” he said. “So, I’m Bobby Pancake, and he’s Kevin Bacon. We’re good.”

Now, that’s food for thought.

So is Pancake’s success story, which began in a KFC franchise and ended up in Delaware, where he and Steve Wheat opened a Buffalo Wild Wings location in 2004.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, High 5 also has Jersey Mike’s Subs franchises and the independent Limestone BBQ and Bourbon.

If it’s true that the restaurant industry offers a ladder to success without a college degree, Pancake is the poster child.


One of High 5 Hospitality’s newest restaurants is the Buffalo Wild Wings in Milford.

Hanging with the Colonel

As a child, Pancake never considered leaving West Virginia, where his family owned a 1,500-acre dairy farm.

“I was busy being a farm kid with chores every day—milking cows and slopping hogs and feeding chickens,” recalled Pancake, who has an older and younger sister.

By the time he was a high schooler, he figured he’d be a truck driver like his cousins.

The senior then got a job at KFC as a cook and chicken cutter. ( In those days, workers broke down chickens in the restaurant.)

“Once I got a paycheck, I was good; I didn’t even consider college,” he said.

Pancake liked making money so much that the 18-year-old opened a country store while working at KFC. In West Virginia, small stores could sell alcohol—unless that is, the owner was underage.

For a while, Pancake used his KFC paycheck to buy the eggs and milk to put on store shelves. It was unsustainable, he said

“I tucked my tail between my legs and said: ‘I can do this some other time,’” he said.

Pancake’s fast food fast track

Over the next 10 years, Pancake worked his way up from a KFC cook to district manager.

When the franchisee sold his KFC stores, he kept Pancake and bought three Kenny Rogers Roasters territories. Pancake opened locations in Pittsburg, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

When the franchisee bowed,  Pancake joined Kenny Rogers Roasters, and again, his career took off. As senior director of operations, he oversaw 500-plus locations and traveled from Savanah, Georgia, to Lansing, Michigan.

“I met a lot of good people,” he recalled. One person was his boss, who left to join Buffalo Wild Wings. In early 1997, he recruited Pancake, who moved to Cincinnati and then to the new corporate headquarters in Minneapolis.

The young manager ran the company-owned Buffalo Wild Wing stores for seven years and oversaw about 80 restaurants in 13 states.

But the old country store had stoked an entrepreneurial spirit that didn’t dwindle.

In 2004,  Pancake and Steve Wheat, who was in the marketing department, decided to become franchisees. Available territories included Delaware and a portion of Maryland.


Limestone BBQ and Bourbon in New Castle County was intended to be the first of a franchised line, but HIgh 5 now intends to keep it a one-off.

Taking flight in the First State

Buffalo Wild Wings was founded in 1982 by Jim Disbrow and Scott Lowery, natives of Buffalo, New York, who couldn’t find good wings after moving to Ohio.

Initially, the brand was Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck, the latter referring to the beef sandwich on a seeded roll that was big in Buffalo but little known elsewhere. The partners decided to bank on wings.

Initially, the concept targeted college campuses but slowly morphed into a suburban, family-friendly model. By 2004, the Minneapolis-based chain had about 285 restaurants in 35 states.

Pancake’s knowledge of Delaware was limited to paying a toll while traveling between Philadelphia and Baltimore for Kenny Rogers. He also knew Delaware had beaches. The partners started scouting locations.

They had experience but little capital to guarantee a lease for the East Coast’s first Buffalo Wild Wings. But developer Dave Cantera took a chance on the partners with a space in Sunset Station on Route 40 in Bear.

When the new restaurant opened, it was number 302 in the chain’s stable.

“It was meant to be,” Pancake said.

High 5 now has nine Buffalo Wild Wings locations, including a new restaurant in Milford. Two are in Maryland.

It is not the only franchise in High 5’s portfolio. At the end of 2021, the company bought Jersey Mike’s Subs locations from an existing franchisee.

“They’re a phenomenal company,” said Pancake, who appreciates that the employees slice the meat in front of customers. “They’re very focused on training, standards and being involved in the local community.”

Eggspectation is a Canadian chain that is quickly growing in the United States. High 5 has locations in Christiana and Maryland.

“One of the criteria was that they had to have great pancakes,” he quipped.


When he’s not managing High 5, Pancake retreats to a family farm in West Virginia.

Feeling independent

High 5 has also created its own concepts.

“Sometimes you get the itch to do other things and really test your entrepreneurial spirit,” Pancake said.

In 2014, 16 Mile Taphouse was up for sale in downtown Newark. The location was on the former site of the Stone Balloon, a nightclub before it was torn down for condos and retail.

The new space initially opened as the Stone Balloon Winehouse. Within four years, the upscale restaurant became an approachable beer-centric establishment, thanks to a partnership with the now-defunct 16 Mile Brewing Co.

High 5 restored Stone Balloon to the restaurant’s name but kept the focus on craft beer. Stone Balloon Ale House was born. In 2023, High 5 elected not to renew the lease, and fans of the Stone Balloon legacy grieved again.

Meanwhile, Limestone BBQ and Bourbon opened in 2018.

“I think out of the gate, we thought we could franchise it,” Pancake said of the barbecue concept. “But the more we operate it, the more comfortable we are with having one location. ‘Let’s be great at this. Let’s be known in this state. Let’s make people come to us rather than take it to them.’”

However, he’ll never say never.


High 5 Hospitality includes Buffalo Wild Wings, Limestone BBQ, Jersey Mike’s and Eggspectation.

Focus on the positive

Expanding High 5’s portfolio offers staff room for growth. Pancake is on a mission to invest in his employees.

“His business savvy is rooted in people,” said Carrie Leishman, president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association. Pancake is a past president.

“He was one of the first operators I worked with who gave awards and held events for his team. He really leaned into training.”

Pancake’s website,, features his observations on entrepreneurship, ambition and personal growth.

“We live in a world that seems to embrace the negative on social media,” he explained. “I want to be the person that gets positive all the time. I post a thought of the say every single day, and I do monthly. I do the same thing within our company, and I try to engage in things that are not negative.”

Leishman said Pancake is a talented coach who shares his business acumen with his staff. He’s not afraid to make a point.

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She recalled the story about Pancake dropping a dollar on the floor of a Buffalo Wild Wings location. When a worker picked it up, Pancake noted that whenever an employee dropped a wing, it was the same as losing money.

Today, Pancake is the managing partner. When not working, he escapes to the fourth-generation family farm in West Virginia, which now raises cattle.

The surname Pancake—which has Dutch origins—has been familiar in this area for generations.

“You know, you grow up and think it’s hard work and, boy, you can’t wait to get out of there,” he said. “Now I can’t wait to spend time on the farm. It’s so peaceful. I’m in touch with the land and nature and the cattle.”

He concluded, “It’s good.”

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