Schlotzsky’s President Kelly Roddy on FOX Business News

Kelly Roddy talks to FOX Business News about Schlotzsky’s expansion plans and the success we found with co-branding with Cinnabon and Carvel Ice Cream.

Sustaining Long-Term Employment for Autistic Adults

By Amy AbbotImageMeena and Ashish Mundle have been managing a successful franchise deli for nearly two decades. AtSchlotzky’s Deli in Evansville, Indiana, the Mundles depend on their small staff working as a team, especially at the busiest times. At noon, sales people pick up catered lunches, office workers want a quick, healthy lunch, and some customers need a late breakfast of coffee and a to-die-for cinnamon roll.

With food costs on the rise and a sluggish economy, each link in the chain is incredibly important to this small business. At the busiest times, 12-year employee Shannon is a crucial link in the chain. Shannon, who has autism and limited communication, is responsible for weighing meat and preparing units for individual sandwiches or salads.

More than a decade ago, the local Community Job Link (CJL) approached Schlotsky’s about hiring a person with autism. Part of the Evansville ARC family, Community Job Link is an employment service for people with disabilities. It serves more than 150 people annually, and also partners with more than 50 businesses.

Shannon had never worked outside the factory setting of ARC Industries—a division of Evansville ARC—and wanted a community job, remembers Meena Mundle. “Shannon is possibly our most productive employee, and her employment has been a great success for everyone concerned,” she states.

Developing Long-term Employment

Thousands of people like Shannon on the autism spectrum need and want work. As the American work force ages, society will need them even more. So, are there lessons from Shannon’s employment that can be learned and applied for others?

Cathy Pratt is the director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at Indiana University in Bloomington, and an advocate for people on the autism spectrum. “We have to understand that it is not just about preparing the employee but preparing the employer,” she explains. Pratt notes that employment situations are improving, as companies like WalgreensMarriott and Lowe’s offer opportunities for people with autism. “As a society, we just can’t think of ‘autism’ jobs,” says Pratt. “What skills will we need? And are we building cultures and climates that support our folks?” According to Pratt, the fundamental principles for sustaining successful, long-term employment for autistic adults include early preparation, long-term job coaching, the development of natural supports and coping strategies, and the creation of opportunities for vocational advancement/enhancement.

Early Preparation

All parents worry about a child’s future. But for the parent of a child with autism, there are special fears and questions. Where will he live? Will he be able to work? What are his skills?  What will happen to my child after I’m gone? Pratt believes that advance preparation is the key to a long-term vocational strategy for people with autism.

“What we in education are figuring out is how to guide families earlier for what individuals will need to prepare for long-term work,” notes Pratt. “Generally, we begin to talk about that transition when an individual is 16 or 17.” But this may not be early enough. Pratt explains that early preparation involves not only thinking about vocations, but individual behaviors that can affect a person in the work force. “Parents may want to start thinking even earlier about the behaviors and skills [their] son or daughter needs to function successfully at age 25. Are we excusing behaviors that will limit their options as adults?” Questions to ponder for a young person with autism include:

  • What are his interests?
  • How well can she communicate with others?
  • Is he easily distracted from a task by noises or other people?
  • Can she manage her temper?
  • Does he know boundaries?
  • How well does she adapt to change?

In partnership with Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation, the Indiana University Center is allied withProject Search, which places high school students in employment situations prior to leaving school. Pratt applaudes the efforts of partner businesses. “Corporations have people who are doing a fabulous job finding real work for people in real settings,” she says, citing the example of an autistic adult working for a large hotel chain. Pratt quotes the employer as saying, “I would like to have a hundred of him. He doesn’t get into social chitchat, he learns tasks easily and takes natural cues [regarding] taking breaks and lunch when scheduled, and he is probably more productive than his peers.” Pratt adds, “It is wonderful to see that corporations understand that hiring folks with autism may bring them a really good employee.”

Long-Term Coaching

Work issues for Shannon now are different from when she started at the deli. For Shannon’s first year of employment, her job coach visited weekly and worked closely with Mary Bennett, Shannon’s supervisor. Now employment specialist Barbara Gutiérrez-DeJarnett visits about twice a month. Meena Mundle remembers how important the first year of job coaching was for Shannon. Shannon’s preferences and work styles needed to match the deli’s needs. When Shannon started working, she had limited verbal skills. The job coach worked with the deli staff to better understand her nonverbal cues. Today Shannon is a pro at her job, and the role of her job coach has evolved into more of an advocate.

Teresa Grossi, the director of Indiana University’s Center on Community Living and Careers, describes the job coach as having a vital double role, supporting both the employee and the employer. But Gossi notes that doing the research to create a good job match is essential to long-term success. “The initial functioning level of the employee is probably less important than finding and sustaining a good match,” she says. The employee’s strengths and gifts must be assessed, along with ascertaining the specific needs of the job.

“A job coach becomes an account manager for that employer,” Gossi explains. “The job coach has to understand the language of business and not speak in human service and education jargon with the employer.” Grossi gives an example of an employee who was distracted and stressed with noise in the workplace. The job coach worked with the employer to purchase noise-reducing headphones that solved the problem both for the employer and employee. In another example, Grossi notes that light placement might affect an employee’s sensory challenges and subsequent behaviors. With the teamwork of the employer and the job coach, these issues can be found and resolved.

Natural Supports and Coping Strategies

In addition to on-site accommodations, it is important to consider the specifics of home and community life for adults with autism. About three years after Shannon started at the deli, she moved from a group home into supported community living, sharing an apartment with two other women. Her home environment is relevant to her work situation, as it is with all workers. For example, a change in the apartment such as a new roommate or new support staff member may foster a different mood in Shannon. Does this affect her work performance?  Often supervisor Mary Barker is the first to notice, but can consult Guitierrez-DeJarnett to learn if the home environment is affecting Shannon’s work performance.

Guitierrez-DeJarnett also helps Shannon with personal needs, such as choosing appropriate clothing for work. She considers whether Shannon’s clothing continues to fit well, whether her uniform meets company standards, and if her shoes are too worn for work. While the job coaching role is markedly different from when Shannon started at the deli, Gutiérrez-DeJarnett believes it is critical to sustaining employment and to helping Shannon grow at work. All employees change in their jobs as years pass; Shannon is not an exception.

Pratt sees length and type of job coaching as dependent on individual needs. “We figure out that employment supports are suitable for a person with autism in the work setting. Then the person does OK, and we back off the supports and sometimes things fall apart. For some individuals, having a job coach for the short-term is OK. But for many individuals, having a job coach over time for troubleshooting is good,” she notes.

ImageSchlotzky’s franchisee Meena Mundle credits both job coaches and Shannon’s supervisor for helping Shannon maintain long-term employment. “Mary is always willing to take time with Shannon and provide direction,” she says. “She knows when Shannon is sick or down, and she communicates well with her.”

Vocational Advancement/Enhancement

Over the last decade, Shannon has been given more complex tasks, says Meena Mundle. Her communication skills have improved as well. “My business isn’t here to babysit anybody. Shannon is not on my payroll as fluff. She is a valuable employee, and I cannot afford fluff,” states Meena Mundle. Her husband concurs. “When you are in a franchise situation, everything is about consistency,” adds Ashish Mundle, whom Shannon calls “Meena’s husband” and not by his name. (This anecdote has become a joke between Shannon and Ashish Mundle.) “A difference in ounces on our meat servings can [fiscally] kill you or make you,” he says.

The Mundles agree that Shannon’s precision in weighing and packaging meat is critical to their business. When they moved to a new building a decade ago, the Mundles designed a less-exposed work station for Shannon that helps her focus, away from noise and distraction. Ashish Mundle, a former corporate finance manager, states that Shannon’s presence is essential. “When she’s not here, you can see that some things have not been done, and this is a problem.”

Pratt urges caregivers and employers to set high expectations for persons with autism in the work place. “Sometimes we think persons with autism don’t like change so we insist they do the same thing day in and day out. When negative behaviors occur, this may signal boredom for the person who doesn’t communicate well … Routine and consistency are good, but we need to assure we have novelty and challenges so people don’t lose engagement. A work environment is more than doing the task.”

Grossi adds, “We have a high percentage of folks on the spectrum who are very capable of working more hours, and no one can argue the benefits … Career advancement for persons with autism in the work force depends on several variables. Do the support dollars follow the individual?  Is the job coach checking with the employer regularly? What is the employee’s level of satisfaction and productivity?  Is it time for him to move on or up for career advancement? … We should always be assessing for career enhancement as well as wage enhancement.”

“When we raise our expectations and give people with autism opportunities, the majority of people are able to fulfill these expectations,” Grossi states. “Just because one individual with autism may not be successful, this doesn’t mean others are not going to be successful. This is exactly the same with a typically-developing person. Making an appropriate job match and providing long-term supports is what any individual needs, regardless of ability.” 

Benefits of a Productive Employee

Hiring autistic adults can have far-reaching benefits. For persons with autism and related spectrum disabilities, the benefits include a sense of purpose, meaningful work, socialization, and a paycheck. For the employer, hiring a person with autism may mean getting an incredibly productive worker, someone who does the task given and more, and who often motivates colleagues to increase productivity. For society, the benefits are immense. More workers are needed as the work force ages. An inclusive society benefits everyone with more productive workers. People earning money contribute by purchasing consumer goods and paying taxes.

For employers Meena and Ashish Mundle, owning the deli is part of creating their “American Dream.” In addition, their efforts in hiring and supporting Shannon, mean that her dreams of greater independence can become a reality. And having Shannon in the deli means customers can continue to enjoy the sandwiches they’ve been dreaming of.  Everyone wins.

Source: Autism After 16

Schlotzsky’s® Unveils First-Ever Chipotle Honey Sandwiches

The new mouth-watering sandwich trio will be layered with the hot and sweet honey chipotle sauce

Schlotzsky’s® falls into autumn with the announcement of a completely new line of limited-time-only Chipotle Honey Sandwiches. From now until November 25, the home of The Original® round-toasted sandwich will feature three new, signature Chipotle Honey Sandwiches – the Turkey and Bacon Chipotle Honey, the Roast Beef and Bacon Chipotle Honey, and the Chicken and Bacon Chipotle Honey.

“We have been looking to bring something hot and sweet to our customers and this trio of delicious sandwiches is the perfect menu option,” said Kelly Roddy, president of Schlotzsky’s. “When the chipotle honey tops our high-quality meats and cheese, it creates an irresistible taste. We look forward to hearing our customers’ feedback.”

The three new, signature sandwiches include:

Turkey & Bacon Chipotle Honey 

Smoked turkey breast and crispy bacon with smoked cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato with chipotle mayonnaise and hot and sweet honey chipotle sauce on a toasted Sourdough bun;

Roast Beef & Bacon Chipotle Honey

Tender slices of Angus roast beef and crispy bacon with smoked cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato with chipotle mayonnaise and hot and sweet honey chipotle sauce on a toasted Sourdough bun; and

Chicken & Bacon Chipotle Honey

Tender, shaved chicken and crispy bacon with smoked cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato with chipotle mayonnaise and hot and sweet honey chipotle sauce on a toasted Sourdough bun.

Schlotzsky’s restaurants offer guests more than 15 different sandwiches on its famous, unique and round freshly-baked buns, as well as gourmet pizzas made with Fresh-from-Scratch® crusts, freshly made-to-order tossed salads, and a variety of soups and delectable desserts.

For more information or to find the nearest location, visit

QSR 50 Contenders

August 2012 | By Sonya Chudgar

These quick-service and fast-casual companies just missed the QSR 50.

Want to know which 15 brands are knocking on the QSR 50’s door? Some are old favorites, others are new to the list, but they’re all trying their hardest to climb their way into the Top 50 ranks.

51 McAlister’s Deli RANK LAST YEAR: 52

While McAlister’s grew by only two units in 2011, its sales increased by more than $25 million over 2010. In April, the company announced a brand-wide redesign that will add bar stools and booths, WiFi, and a Tea Bar to stores. Customer loyalty appears solid, meanwhile, as a Technomic study revealed consumers aged 19–34 ranked McAlister’s the top fast-casual brand in terms of social responsibility and food quality.

52 Auntie Anne’s ( 51 )

Auntie Anne’s added 120 stores last year, almost half of them abroad, and celebrated its 23rd year of positive sales growth. The pretzel company also signed a $25,000 check to jumpstart its charitable partnership with pediatric cancer nonprofit Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, and in January began testing whole-grain pretzels.

53 Moe’s Southwest Grill ( 53 )

Moe’s was seeing green in 2011, between its first LEED-certified store in Williston, Vermont, and $381 million in sales. In fact, since unleashing its Food Mission in January 2011, Moe’s AUV increased by a whopping $114,000. The brand also inked a licensing deal with BJ’s Wholesale Club and shows no signs of slowing down, with a strategic plan to grow to 800 locations by the end of 2015.

54 Wingstop ( 54 )

In the 12 months leading up to this summer, Wingstop signed agreements to add more than 325 units, including 120 in Mexico, and celebrated its 500th location in Brooklyn. October ushered in the brand’s 10th flavor, Louisiana Rub, and the opening of rapper Rick Ross’ first unit. Super Bowl Sunday, meanwhile, resulted in monster sales of 5.6 million wings—a 12 percent boost over 2011’s Super Sunday—and helped Q1 sales soar 10.5 percent over Q1 2011.

55 Cold Stone Creamery ( 49 )

No. 49 on last year’s QSR 50, Cold Stone lost 36 net units last year and suffered a loss of nearly $20 million in year-over-year sales. Still, the chain remains in the game. It debuted frozen yogurt in stores nationwide last summer, rolled out a line of plated desserts, and signed franchise partners in Singapore, Greece, and Brazil.

56 Au Bon Pain ( 55 )

First, Au Bon Pain shelled out $500,000–$1 million per store to remodel flagship locations in Boston, installing snappy iPad ordering and sandwich and salad stations. The brand also boosted its menu by adhering to the cupcake craze and adding the frosted handhelds along with enhanced beverage options. Then, in New York City, remodeled stores began generating double-digit sales increases. Now, given the enthusiastic customer response, Au Bon Pain plans to take the makeover nationwide and expedite store openings this year.

57 Taco John’s ( 56 )

Taco John’s winged it last fall, to extremely positive results. The West-Mex chain enjoyed a $15 million boost in sales over 2010, thanks primarily to three varieties of wings that joined the menu in late October. Though originally intended to be a limited-time offer, wings increased sales so significantly, they may earn a permanent spot in the chain’s starting line-up.

58 Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes ( 57 )

The sustainable, healthy approach continues to pay off for Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes, whose 192 restaurants boast the same AUV as McDonald’s. In February, the brand joined Kids LiveWell and in September, parent company Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. became the largest restaurant chain in the nation to be certified by the Green Restaurant Association.

59 Firehouse Subs ( 60 )

Last year, the brand founded by firefighting brothers became the first national chain to host the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in all its restaurants. Along the way, it added 79 stores and 80 new franchisees and entered 13 new markets, including its first international market. The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, which puts a local face on the restaurant, also raised $1.8 million to donate to local fire and police departments and emergency medical services. This is one fire you don’t want to put out.

60 Baja Fresh ( 58 )

Get fresh, save the earth. That was Baja Fresh’s message in 2011, when the Mexican brand rolled out its Earth Fresh Initiative, which features recycled bags, unbleached recyclable burrito wrapping paper, and biodegradable plates. Though sales declined by $12 million from the previous year, the company is continuing its international expansion, announcing its first Singapore location.

61 Fuddruckers ( 59 )

A tough 2010—Fuddruckers filed for Chapter 11, closed nearly 50 units, and was purchased by Luby’s—set 2011 up as a recovery year. Sales dropped by $12 million, but Luby’s has lofty goals in mind for the burger company, including the first combined cafeteria-Fuddruckers unit, a Fuddruckers drive thru, and expansion into Mexico.

62 Corner Bakery Café ( 62 )

Corner Bakery Café retained its No. 62 spot following the acquisition of parent group Il Fornaio Corporation by Roark Capital Group in June 2011. System-wide sales grew to $261 million, up $14 million from 2010, and community work remained strong as the brand raised $268,000 during the 2011 Dine Out for No Kid Hungry. Millennial consumers, in fact, gave top marks to Corner Bakery Café for its charitable efforts and support of community organizations.

63 Charley’s Grilled Subs ( N/A )

A newcomer to the contenders list, Charley’s hired Bob Wright as the company’s first COO last April. Wright grew the brand by 30 units, emphasized international expansion, and received a promotion to president in January. Charley’s announced a play in the fast-casual category in December, unveiling Charley’s Philly Steaks, an upscale version that may have up to 10 locations open this year.

64 Schlotzsky’s ( 63 )

Turning 40 last year, Schlotzsky’s had much to celebrate. Things got “Lotz Better” when the rebranding project, which refreshed the menu and splattered store interiors with vibrant colors, boosted visits by 18–25-year-olds and doubled salad sales. All locations that open going forward will be tri-branded with Cinnabon and Carvel, an idea that began in 2009 and has increased AUV by $9,000. As the brand eyes its goal of 600–700 units by 2015, upping pizza sales will be the next target.

65 Jamba Juice ( 61 )

The company sold 173 units in 2011, refranchising to shift to an asset-light model, and signed Venus Williams as a franchisee. In January, Jamba launched BLEND Plan 2.0, which hopes to grow Jamba’s licensing category from 30,000 to 50,000 touch points and debut JambaGo, a new platform for nontraditional venues. A move in the tea category may be on the horizon, too, as Jamba acquired burgeoning tea company Talbott Teas in February.

Source: QSR Magazine