Chain Operations includes chain profiles, news on chain restaurants, trend pieces and new concepts.
Think stodgy when you think Sizzler? Think again. The 53-year-old steak and salad bar chain has recently made big moves to contemporize its menu, its look and feel, even the ways it goes to market. It's all part of a recently launched turnaround strategy designed to bring the chain back into action as a compelling fast-casual choice.
Saladworks has tossed together a fresh concept that during the past two years has kicked off national expansion, unveiled a new look, expanded its array of toppings, switched out its beverage program, and tackled new product development that fits its "tossed to order" service model.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit is getting bigger in part by going smaller. With the format sights set on becoming the largest barbecue chain in the country (it's already the largest quick-service barbecue chain), Dickey's has kicked off an aggressive expansion drive with a smaller, more streamlined prototype.
Billing itself as an "artisanal Mexican kitchen," Qdoba has grown to more than 500 units and secured its position as a major force in the fast-casual restaurant segment.
One of the challenges any restaurant chain faces is fighting for locations. Dallas-based Pizza Patrón has found that creating a variety of business models not only generates site opportunities, but also increases profit potential.
Auntie Anne's celebrates the simple pretzel in a wide range of sweet, savory and surprising ways. It's a formula that's given rise to one of the largest fresh, hand-rolled pretzel companies in the world since its founding in 1988 by Anne and Jonas Beiler.
Noodles and Company has thrived during the recession as its leadership has worked to refine the concept and position it to strongly appeal to today's consumers. The company does this on a number of fronts, including offering a nicer fast-casual dining experience with real china, silverware and no need for customers to bus their own tables coupled with a menu of fresh, made-to-order noodle and other dishes that range from healthy to indulgent, and from spicy to comforting.
If growing in a recession is tough, growing in a recession while emerging from bankruptcy is tougher still. Fatburger has done both, executing a turnaround strategy since it filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2009. Last year, the company landed squarely in positive territory, achieving double-digit unit growth and systemwide revenue gains of 4 percent. In its primary markets of California and Nevada, same-store sales rose more than 11 percent for the year, says Don Berchtold, president.
It's not just the West Coast restaurant chains that are on the cutting edge of the green movement. For Anna's Taqueria, which has six locations in the Boston area, environmentally friendly business practices have been standard since the chain was founded by owner Mike Kamio in 1995.
Extreme Pizza's take-and-bake business was launched in 1994 and didn't take off as anticipated — and after six months company founder Todd Parent was not above tweaking the concept.
A Midwest staple, Culver's has spread its wings in recent years to cover 19 states. Its basic formula — friendly, fast-casual service; burgers grilled to order, home-style dinners and frozen custard — has put this small-town company in the ring with much larger competitors.