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Turnaround report: Bob Evans regroups by ‘performance bands’; McDonald’s further adventures with kale; Subway’s pretzel logic

Bob Evans tries a different sort of customization

A different way of setting store-level benchmarks helped Bob Evans Farms cut its manpower requirements last quarter by 125,000 labor hours and $600,000, even as the family chain set out to upgrade service.

The breakthrough, explained CFO Mark Hood, was no longer viewing every store as an identical clone. “A restaurant with $1.5 million of annual sales has different needs and opportunities than a $2.5 million restaurant,” he explained to investors.

Only 50 of the 550 Bob Evans locations post metrics that fall close to the systemwide averages, Hood said. Instead of trying to make one size fit all, headquarters reclassified stores by performance bands and examined each group’s needs. That, in turn, led to fewer hours.

The marketplace helped by dampening the prevailing wage rates for new hires, enabling Bob Evans to lower its systemwide hourly pay by 10 cents in June and July. A trim of that magnitude equates into a $2.5 million annual savings, Hood said.

Trying to make managers feel like smart owners

Grouping stores by volume levels will ease several of Bob Evans’ near-term turnaround initiatives, not the least of them being a determination of management levels, Hood indicated.

Managers’ compensation packages are being revised to foster a sense of ownership and a more generous share of profit increases, he added. The enabler will be a new tech package that the chain is trying in two stores, with seven more test locations scheduled to boot up in October.

The suite extends from hand-held ordering devices for servers, to pay-at-the-table capabilities for guests. Hood said the system will be a plus for takeout and catering, two big areas of growth for Bob Evans, but did not provide details.

Kale sprouts in McDonald’s north of the border

Among the products McDonald’s could pull off a shelf to keep its U.S. breakfast menu fresh are two breakfast wraps already rolling into Canadian units.

The two are virtual poles in the health/decadence spectrum. One features the ingredient synonymous with health and wholesomeness, baby kale, as well as the exotic-sounding feta cheese.

The other is much more of a belly-bomber, with sausage and a hash brown slab adding considerable heft to the wrap.

McDonald’s has tested a breakfast bowl that includes kale, but the item has not been introduced chainwide. It rolled out a salad made with baby kale earlier this year.

Subway tries a pretzel roll

A handful of stores in Pennsylvania are trying the chewier bread as a foundation for meatier sandwiches, according to the Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News.

The roll is being used for six-inch subs sporting 50 percent more cold cuts like turkey, the paper reported. The mustard used as a topping is sourced locally.

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