Schlotzsky’s sees growth with reimaged units

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President Kelly Roddy shares results of reimaging with NRN and details 2013 plans

By Ron Ruggless

Schlotzsky’s Franchise LLC this past year completed the reimaging of older stores in the 350-unit chain and this year plans to amp up expansion of its tri-brand units and catering.

Over the past several years, the company has packaged new stores with sibling brands Cinnabon and Carvel, all owned by Atlanta-based Focus Brands Inc.

Schlotzsky’s unveils new look – Check out the slide show!

Kelly Roddy, president of the Austin, Texas-based Schlotzsky’s division, said in a phone interview earlier this week that the company is set to open tri-brand stores in the new markets this year. Those markets include Kentucky, New Jersey and North Carolina as well as: Minneapolis, Minn.; New Orleans, La.; Orange County, Calif., Philadelphia; and Sacramento, Calif. Schlotzsky’s currently operates in 37 states.

The privately held company said reimaged restaurants are seeing a 20-percent increase in sales on average. In addition, Roddy said Schlotzsky’s has seen seven years of positive same-store sales increases “even through the tough economy.”

Roddy recently discussed the reimaging of Schlotzsky’s with Nation’s Restaurant News.

What have been Schlotzsky’s highlights in the past year?

We’ve reimaged the restaurants over 2011. We launched new menu boards with new soups, new fresh, made-to-order salads. All the stores are now on table service. Our new prototype rolled out. All the new stores we’re opening will have tri-brands with Cinnabon, Carvel and Schlotzsky’s. All this has been evolving over say the last five years to relaunch the brand. The result has been a lot of growth.

What has reimaging done for franchise sales?

We sold 110 new Schlotzsky’s tri-brand agreements this past year. We’re on trend to get 40 or 50 open this year. We have 27 under construction right now with other leases being negotiated.

Are you including drive-thrus with the new units?

They pretty much all have drive-thrus. There will maybe be one or two that will not. The average store that is opening right now is about 3,000 square feet with a drive-thru and a tri-brand. It has soft seating, so you have booths and lots of bright colors and new modern look.

How did you change the food-delivery model?

We put [food runners] in the new stores and went back and retrofit the other stores. [The table-runner model] is now in place everywhere. It eliminates all the clutter from the paging [system]. It allows the guest to go sit down, relax and start the conversation with whomever they are there with. It’s just more enjoyable. It allows us to engage with the customer. It allows us to monitor the dining room to make sure that it’s clean. If someone needs napkins or whatever, we can bring that to them. It gives it a little more of a casual-dining feels rather than a fast-food feel.

What strengths are you finding in the menu changes?

Our soup and salad business has grown. We’ve seen an increase in the female customer count since we introduced the fresh, made-to-order salads.

Any shift in dayparts?

In 2012, we saw a small bump in our dinner daypart. We think it’s because of the upgraded salads and serving everything on plate ware. We went from Styrofoam bowls, basically, to serving everything on china. That and the booths give us a little more credibility at dinner. This year, we’re looking at how to strengthen that with better offerings around our pizza, etc.

What are the advantages of the tri-branding?

It helps you capture different dayparts. The Cinnabon gives you a nice snack daypart fill-in. You’ll see a lift in the 2-4 [p.m.] range. We’re seeing quite a bit of ice cream sold in the evenings. We think it’s helping bring in families.

What’s the focus in the year ahead?

Catering. We added about 60 new catering vehicles this past year to the fleet. We will continue to do that. Most stores are getting catering vehicles. We’re also partnering with online catering vendors. We’ll also be working on a dinner daypart strategy as well, which will probably roll out at the end of the year.

You started the year with about 30 catering vehicles, so it’s now in about a third of your stores. What are you seeing in catering sales?

It was small to begin with. Catering sales were probably in the 30 to 40 percent increase off a small base. Our goal would be to double our catering sales within the next 12 months.

What kind of customers are you targeting with the catering sales?

It’s pretty much lunch business meetings for Monday-Friday lunch.

What challenges do you see on the horizon?

Commodity costs look to be a challenge, but everybody is in the same boat. We haven’t taken any price, and we’re doing everything we can to not to take price. We have pretty good food costs. We’re going to watch and see what happens.

Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

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