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

3 profitable restaurant models

Schlotzsky’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill and Sizzler discuss the payoffs of their recent remodeling projects

June 7, 2012 – Mark Brandau

Restaurant brands are getting more than just a fresh coat of paint with their latest efforts to refresh and remodel.

In addition to looking modern and relevant, now a necessity in a highly competitive restaurant landscape, chains are repositioning themselves, expanding into new dayparts and sales layers, and motivating their franchisees and staff through large investments for reimaging.

While major public companies like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Bob Evans have identified remodeling as a major growth strategy, smaller brands also are targeting significant returns on reimaging investments and renewed growth. Schlotzsky’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill and Sizzler spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about how their recent remodels have begun to pay off.

Schlotzsky’s Deli: Tripling down on new positioning

In order to complete the reimaging of its more than 375 restaurants in 2011, Schlotzsky’s Deli invested $40 million in not only refreshing the chain’s décor but also in adding service elements to solidify its positioning as a fast-casual brand.

“Schlotzsky’s had gone through many years of being in between quick service and fast casual, so we repositioned from our marketing, service, and look and feel,” president Kelly Roddy said. “We changed it to ‘Lotz better,’ with new packaging and colors, new signage, and with food runners bringing food to the table. … We saw a significant improvement in customer counts and sales as soon as we finished the reimages.”

The Austin, Texas-based chain, which is a division of Atlanta-based Focus Brands, steadily grew average unit volumes after accelerating the rebrand process in 2011, going from average sales of about $660,000 in fiscal 2007 to about $780,000 by the end of 2011. Year-to-date, average unit volumes are tracking at about $800,000, Roddy said.

Some units even co-branded with other Focus properties, including Cinnabon and Carvel, to expand into dayparts beyond the typical lunch rush, he added. Units co-branded with a Cinnabon are on pace to pay back the remodel investment within nine months, while other Schlotzsky’s locations that simply updated the décor would reach their return in about 16 months.

“We now have a brand that’s more relevant and seated more strongly in the fast-casual position,” Roddy said. “We’re very much a lunch business, so our goal now is to reach beyond lunchtime. We can take some items we currently sell, such as our pizzas, which we’re starting to promote past 3:00 now, and introduce ourselves as a dinner player.”

The ability to fill the restaurant with customers at all points of the day — including for Cinnabon treats in the morning or at snack time and for Carvel ice cream at night — has increased productivity without adding much incremental labor, according to Roddy. He added that franchisees are bullish on the potential of Schlotzsky’s units tri-branded with Cinnabon and Carvel.

“It has re-energized the franchise base,” he said. “They’re starting to grow now, and people who haven’t built stores in a decade are out there expanding. We’re selling a lot of franchises, but we can be particular about who we let into the brand because it’s in such high demand.”

There currently are about 20 tri-branded locations, and Schlotzsky’s plans to open 35 more in 2012, Roddy said.

Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

Schlotzsky’s Deli returns to Florida

 

June 10, 2011 | By Alan Snel

After pulling back from Florida more than a decade ago, the Schlotzsky’s Deli chain is returning with plans to open new restaurants in the Orlando and Tampa markets, the brand’s chief executive said Friday.

The Florida push is part of the “aggressive growth mode” Schlotzsky’s has embarked on during 2011, Kelly Roddy told Nation’s Restaurant News. The chain has plans to open a new restaurant on a weekly basis in Texas, Denver, Oklahoma and across the southern United States from September to Christmas.

“Schlotzsky’s had grown pretty big in the ’90s and then closed a bunch of stores,” Roddy said. “We then went back and re-branded Schlotzsky’s, and we have a growth strategy to expand from the core of Texas. We are in an aggressive growth mode.

“It’s time to go back in Florida,” he said. “We want to redevelop the Orlando and Tampa markets. We think brands do well in Orlando.”

Schlotzsky’s, which is owned by Atlanta-based Focus Brands, opened two stores in Panama City in Florida’s Panhandle this year and also Gainesville. At one time, Schlotzsky’s had 10 restaurants in the Orlando area, said spokeswoman Jayne Levy. The last one closed in Altamonte Springs in 2001.

The game plan is to open new units from North Florida to South Florida, Roddy said.

Schlotzsky’s, which features sandwiches, pizzas, wraps, soups, panini and salads, recently introduced three LTO sandwiches. The chain is reprising its “Albuquerque Turkey” and “Windy City Pastrami,” while rolling out a new Buffalo Chicken sandwich. The sandwiches will be available through Aug. 28.

Schlotzsky’s generates an average per-person check of $10.50, Roddy said.

Nick Vojnovic, former chairman of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said Schlotzsky’s experienced the “classic implosion story” and was forced to close stores in the post-Sept. 11 economy when new stand-alone restaurants were unable to generate sufficient sales. But Vojnovic, the former president of the parent company of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s sports pub chain, said the chain retains high brand awareness.

“It’s a great brand, and they offered a higher-end sandwich alternative to Subway’s,” he said. “If they get the right locations and the right niche, it could work. But it will be a hard work.”

Roddy said he has received “a lot of interest in [the Tampa and Orlando] markets. We’re picking franchise partners.”

Schlotzsky’s has about 370 units, with new stores scheduled to open this year in Texas, Denver, Oklahoma City and Atlanta. “There’s a lot of [Schlotzsky’s] construction going around the country,” Roddy said.

The new Schlotzsky’s restaurants in Tampa and Orlando also will include branded products of sister chains Cinnabon and Carvel, which are also owned by Focus Brands. Roddy said both brands “do well in Florida.”

Schlotzsky’s was founded in Austin, Texas, 40 years ago.

Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

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