Restaurant Development & Design

JUL-AUG 2018

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 8 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 1 9 Peer to Peer great real estate. We try to do some things that create awareness that we're coming. Is it hard to get franchisees due to lack of awareness? JL: The food industry is a really small in- dustry, so you'd be amazed at how aware people are of brands that are not near them. We've had 18 straight quarters of sales growth. We are growing units, growing sales, growing transactions, and people in the industry are very aware of that. It's not easy to entice people to try a new brand. How do you find franchisees? JL: We advertise in the markets we're excited about. We attend trade shows and are loud and proud in the industry. Word of mouth is great. We like franchi- sees who are already in the industry and with noncompetitive brands, so we'll be forthright in saying we'd like franchisees who know how to execute and operate in their market. It's a combination of all those things. You have to touch a lot of folks to find the few that are right. We are very transparent about what's right. It's myriad efforts and avenues that you have to attack, and we vet people. It's like a marriage — it's a strong commitment to each other, and we make sure we spend time getting to know them. At the end of the day, it's about spending time with [potential franchisees], bringing them out to the West, going out to their market, and seeing the culture and the teams they've built. We're looking for the ability to be a great operator, build a great culture, build a great team and be excited. What are the brand principles Del Taco wants to adhere to as it expands, in terms of design? JL: In terms of design, we are QSR-plus. We have the speed and convenience of a drive-thru but better food than a typical QSR, so we lean into that fast- casual space and at a price point that's not $12 or $13. We educate customers about those fresh cues and the quality we bring, and that's important. We are looking into refrigerators with glass windows, so you can see we have blocks of cheese we're grating on-site; we bring in fresh whole avocados and make guacamole on-site; we make salsa on-site; and our beans are brought in as raw pinto beans. We are cre- ating an open kitchen, and you can see all this — the block of cheese is next to a box of grated cheese. So our design is about informing people about freshness, which is what we're all about. Will all units be designed the same? JL: We think we have the right formula for success. We are not looking for differ- ent versions of Del Taco; they'll all feel fundamentally the same. You'll see the Del Taco you know and love. There are very small changes in some; for example, we have a restaurant in Atlanta and we tie in some store decor to the local uni- versity. But the restaurant design is not going to be different regionally. You have two restaurants open in Florida and plan a big push into Orlando. Why is Orlando such an attractive market? JL: We have a long-standing West Coast franchisee who went there and is looking to grow. There are four million people there, so when we think of markets of that size, we're looking to build aware- ness rapidly and get media support. In addition to our existing franchisee, we're looking to bring in more people. So far, there are two well-placed restaurants to help start our brand. What do you look for in a new market? JL: Because of the media today and the awareness of social media, people are looking for a healthy option. We're trying to replicate the regionality of California and the Southwest in the Southeast. We have distribution that will take us pretty much anywhere over America. If we have someone in Milwaukee, we'd move to De- troit. If we find the right partner, and we mutually come to the same conclusion, we'll go. The coasts aren't too critical for us. I do think there's a healthier aspect of being coastal, but we think we can be a national brand. + Image courtesy of Del Taco

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