After converting 40 restaurants into the more upscale Schlotzsky’s Austin Eateries, the Schlotzsky’s fast-casual sandwich chain aims to rebrand the other 337 units in the chain no later than the end of this year, President Kelly Roddy told Restaurant Business.
“It’s gone better than we expected,” said Roddy, who manages the chain for parent Focus Brands.
Stores that have been given a complete overhaul are averaging year-over-year sales increases of 9%, according to Roddy. A complete renovation, which includes a redesign, rebranding and a new menu sporting items such as made-to-order tacos and sliders, runs about $125,000, he said. At some stores, the rebranding also includes the offer of beer and wine, with special happy hour selections.
The chain has also put together a lighter recast for newer stores that don’t need as much of a facelift. He pegs the cost of that remodeling at about $30,000 and projects it will result in a sales lift of about 10%. About 30 units will get the lighter makeover, Roddy said.
Franchisees have embraced the plan because of the attractive returns, he continued. All units in Atlanta will sport the new look by April 27.
Roddy said that 207 units will be rebranded by mid-June, and the remaining 100 branches will be recast by year’s end.
The franchisor will strive to maintain the sales momentum by continuing to focus on menu innovation, Roddy said. The new bill of fare also includes baked pasta entrees, prepared in the same pans Schlotzsky’s uses to bake its signature muffaletta-style bread.
The new sliders are made with brisket roasted on premises for 11 hours. The aim is to provide food that Roddy describes as fast fine, while delivering the slightly offbeat ambience and attitude for which many restaurants in the concept’s home of Austin, Texas, are known. The concept was founded there 47 years ago.
The chain has also implemented a customer appreciation program aimed at thanking guests in a genuine way for visiting. Management hit on the idea of invoking hit TV show “The Bachelor,” on which a young man being courted by a number of women choses the one he’ll wed by presenting her with a single long-stem rose.
Employees are encouraged to thank guests for choosing Schlotzsky’s. “We tell them, ‘Like “The Bachelor,” we got the rose today,’” Roddy said.