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How Quaker Steak and Lube shrunk its footprint—and grew its business

Restaurant renovations are on a lot of minds at the NRA show this year. John Longstreet, CEO of Quaker Steak and Lube, is touting his chain’s reduced footprint and the major impact it’s had on franchisee growth.

Quaker Steak has cut a million dollars out of its build out costs, going from $4.2 million to $3.2 million. Longstreet attributes roughly 40 to 50 planned franchisee units to the reduced costs. The chain got its size down through a number of strategies:

  • Land costs were reduced by eliminating 40 of the 200 parking spaces, creating the number determined necessary to support the same volumes with the addition of a call-in/pick-up window that would drive 10 percent of sales.
  • One of the three bars was removed to allow more dining room seats and the kitchen was made more efficient, allowing a total of 1,000 square feet to be carved out of the building.
  • The ceilings were lowered to reduce the amount of space that needed to be air-conditioned (heavy objects, like cars, are now displayed on lifts instead of being hung from the ceiling), allowing for five-ton air-conditioning units.
  • In the back of the house, high-efficiency equipment was spec'd, then ganged under a single run of low-capture hoods, which remove less air from the building, also saving on cooling costs.
  • The new roof design is all on one level, allowing for a standard steel package that can be preordered, thus reducing the development time to 120 days from180. “At $100,000 a week in sales volume, that adds up,” notes Stack.
  • Walk-in and other storage space has been moved to modular units that can be trucked in and tacked on to the actual building, rather than being inside it.
  • The old 1,600-amp electrical system was replaced by 800 amps, significantly reducing energy costs.
  • Oversize garage doors allow patio seating to be fully integrated with indoor seating areas during warm weather, which actually increases the seating capacity of the restaurant by one-third.

The 43-unit chain has 10 new units planned for this year and 15 for next year. They have new franchisee contracts totally 52 units, which should come online over the next seven years.

Check out the June issue of Restaurant Business for our cover story on innovative strategies for shrinking your footprint.

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