Schlotzsky’s hopes to grow once again in the Sunshine State

By Susan R. Miller

Schlotzsky’s fast-casual restaurants should be popping up again all over the Sunshine State.

The company once had a presence here, but a 2004 bankruptcy nearly halved its number of restaurants.

In 2006, Atlanta-based Focus Brands purchased Schlotzsky’s and rebranded existing stores. Now the company is poised for growth, VP of Sales David Wheeler said.

Once known as home to the original round sandwich of meats, cheeses and black olives, Schlotzsky’s expanded its menu to offer salads, pizzas, wraps and soups.

“Under Focus Brands, we have made it more fun, unique and hip,” Wheeler said. “It used to be more of a deli; now it’s more fast-casual.”

On a scale of one to 10, he said Florida is a 10 when it comes to the company’s growth strategy.

“Florida is the No. 1 state where we get requests from customers to come back,” Wheeler said.

At the recent Franchise Expo South in Miami Beach, Wheeler said Focus Brands came away with a lot of strong franchise candidates from all over the state.

There are just three Schlotzsky’s in Florida: one in Gainesville and two in Panama City.

Wheeler is working with a group looking to develop one in Orlando and another in Fort Myers, and he’s hoping to find partners for South Florida. The target is 150 restaurants statewide.

Because Focus Brands has Carvel and Cinnabon under its corporate umbrella, Schlotzsky’s will sell both. The franchise fee, which includes all three brands, is $38,500. Total costs can range from $250,000 to more than $650,000, depending on buildout costs.

Source: South Florida Business Journal

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

Old restaurant brands get reborn in Orlando

By Sandra Pedicini

What’s old is becoming new again in Central Florida, as several restaurant chains that left town years ago have begun returning.

Bennigan’s, Schlotzsky’s, Del Taco and Bruegger’s have all decided to give the area a second chance.

There are several reasons for the resurgence, experts say. More folks are eating out again as the economy slowly recovers. The still-soft real-estate market means owners can get deals on buildings.

And throngs of theme-park tourists who want a little familiarity make Orlando a perfect spot to reintroduce an old favorite.

“The idea of taking an old brand and reinventing it can be easier to do than re-creating it from scratch,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of restaurant-research company Technomic. “I think there’s this nostalgia around certain brands.”

This fall, Bennigan’s will reopen its restaurant at International Drive and the BeachLine Expressway.

Bennigan’s closed most Central Florida restaurants and many others nationwide in 2008, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in the midst of that year’s economic meltdown. It and other midrange restaurants struggled particularly as many Americans essentially stopped going out to eat.

Now, Bennigan’s has a new chief executive officer and has begun retooling its restaurants. Customers can play darts or Wii bowling, watch flat-screen TVs and gather on exterior patios with outdoor bars.

Central Florida is a perfect place for one of the first new Bennigan’s restaurants, Chief Executive Officer Paul Mangiamele said.

“There’s a great influx of tourists that go there domestically and internationally,” he said. Rebuilding in Orlando will provide an opportunity “for all those thousands of eyes to see the new Bennigan’s.”

Shannon Flesch of Waterford Lakes has fond memories of Bennigan’s from her college days and can’t wait to try the new one.

“I was very sad when I found out they were closing there a couple years ago,” said Flesch, 31, who still has cravings for the turkey sandwiches on pretzel buns she used to enjoy there. “I thought they were a pretty successful chain. I think we’ve probably gone there my entire life.”

Schlotzsky’s also has reinvented itself since closing many of its restaurants, including all of those in Central Florida in 2001. Atlanta-based Focus Brands boug ht the chain in 2006.

New stores will sell treats from the company’s other restaurants, Cinnabon and Carvel. Schlotzsky’s now builds free-standing restaurants instead of putting them in strip centers as it used to do. It has updated its interiors, with tables, chairs, light fixtures and wallpaper all featuring circular patterns mimicking the shape of sandwiches.

The post-Sept. 11 economy, a low-carb craze and heavy debt all hurt Schlotzsky’s in years past, President Kelly Roddy said.

The chain had 750 restaurants at its peak. It has 370 now but plans to add more. In the Orlando area alone, Schlotzsky’s hopes to build 30 restaurants within five years.

“We had all the pieces of the puzzle together to support this,” Roddy said. “It’s just a great time to be growing.”

And Orlando is a great place to grow, said Chris Muller, a former University of Central Florida restaurant professor and now dean of the Boston College School of Hospitality Administration.

“It’s a brand-friendly town,” he said.

But bringing back a chain that already has failed once in a market carries some risk. Bruegger’s, which returned to Central Florida a couple of years ago after leaving in the late 1990s, opened only one bakery here that has closed twice, most recently last month.

Bruegger’s would not answer questions about the closed store in Altamonte Springs, saying only that it will build more bakeries here.

“I think the risk is generally going to be higher when you’ve [already] failed,” Tristano said. “I think you’ll have a small group of consumers who will be excited, but the majority won’t really know the brand well enough. It will be trying to open their eyes to what the brand is and getting people to try it, which is always a challenge.”

Del Taco says it has met that challenge and successfully reintroduced Central Florida to its fast-food Mexican fare. The California-based chain began reopening in 2009, after leaving Central Florida about 20 years ago. Del Taco departed Central Florida after a licensee decided to leave the restaurant business and shuttered eateries around the southeastern United States.

Now, Del Taco has three restaurants here and will soon begin construction on another in Kissimmee.

Del Taco spiced up its deal for franchisees to help them get started during a difficult economy. It waived a $25,000 franchise fee and reduced royalty percentages paid back to the company.

Del Taco took a while to return because it first wanted to make sure “we were growing out at the pace we wanted in the western half of the country,” said Jim Lyons, chief development officer. “We were expanding eastward, and Orlando was a market we always wanted to get back to. Orlando is a very good restaurant market in general.” or 407-420-5240. Follow her on Twitter @dineshopwrite

Source: Orlando Sentinel



Schlotzsky’s Deli plans return to Orlando

By Sandra Pedicini, Orlando Sentinel

Ten years after Schlotzsky’s Deli left Orlando, the chain says it plans to return.

Schlotzsky’s plans to open about 15 restaurants throughout the Orlando area in the next three to five years. No leases are signed yet.

The new delis will have a new look. And they will be paired with Cinnabon. Both are owned by Atlanta-based Focus Brands

Schlotzsky’s had five delis in the Orlando area that all shut down in 2001.

Source: Orlando Sentinel