Challenging times require bold initiative, and the restaurant industry didn’t disappoint this week. Forward thinkers set lofty objectives and commenced their pursuit with a resolve worthy of Lewis and Clark. Here are a few of the moonshot projects that deserve a double take.
1. Man on the moon? Pfft. Try standardizing tech
John F. Kennedy pledged to put a man on the moon within a decade, a feat that sounded almost superhuman at the time. But it’s nothing compared with the objective Popeyes has set for itself: reducing the 40 POS systems currently used by the chain to one common setup.
The task will take at least two years, and, along with a complementary upgrade of field management, will cost at least $2 million this year alone, executives told a presumably slack-jawed group of financial analysts this week.
“We are in the 'how to' planning stage at this point, of how to sequence the implementation of the technology program to access the revenue and cost opportunities out there,” said CEO Cheryl Bachelder.
She noted that the chain has just completed the scoping phase of the endeavor, and should have an implementation plan by Oct. 5.
One analyst questioned the wisdom of spending the needed dollars at a time of softening sales, but Popeyes CFO Will Matt defended the outlay as strategic.
“One [system] would be better than 40,” noted Bachelder.
The rollout is slated for 2018.
2. The fix is on
Standardizing the technology used in 2,594 restaurants is only one of the ambitious programs that Popeyes disclosed this week. Simultaneous with that endeavor, the chain will be rolling out a new training program aimed at recapturing guests who might’ve been turned off by a visit. It’s called Service Basics 2.0.
“As background, we found that when guests are highly satisfied with a problem resolution, they are three times more likely to return,” explained Bachelder. “Service Basics 2.0 is a program designed to teach and empower restaurant teams to solve guest problems as they occur and recover that guest loyalty on the spot.”
The initiative follows a survey of all 50,000 people employed in Popeyes restaurants to gauge their attitudes toward the job and how much they engage with unit managers. Individual restaurants will learn their scores next week, as well as how they stack up against other branches.
3. Big goals, small budget
Spitting out LTO after LTO doesn’t make sense for the Good Times burger chain, according to CEO Boyd Hoback. With more than 80% of sales coming from the drive-thru, and half of all revenues generated by burgers, chicken tenders and frozen custard, a limited-time lure can be more of a complication than a wow that lands customers, he explained.
Instead, the company intends to focus on upgrading the quality of its menu workhorses: burgers and chicken tenders. Hoback detailed such nuts-and-bolts changes as delivering a hotter, meatier burger with “better cheese melt” and an improved bun. Good Times also intends to improve the holding system for its tenders, and to offer its breakfast burrito all day.
Similar objectives have been set by any number of quick-service burger chains. A difference in Good Times’ plan is the relatively low cost: $20,000 per store for new equipment and a kitchen reconfiguration.
4. Second life for pizza boxes, yo
Critics of restaurants’ garbage output may be overlooking the industry’s noble attempts to find a second use for packaging that might otherwise end up in landfills—or as roadside litter. A New York City pizzeria turned heads when it started putting pies in a box that provided a second meal; it was made out of pizza.
Some overseas KFCs have packed their chicken in boxes that customers can also use to charge their phones.
A number of pizzerias have suggested that patrons turn the box from their order into a laptop stand.
Now comes what may be the boldest recovery move yet. Pizza Huts in the United Kingdom are using a pizza box that converts into a DJ’s mixing deck. A Bluetooth connection to a computer or smartphone enables the user to play and manipulate digital music via controllers on the box’s surface.