Restaurant Development & Design

MAR-APR 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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Heeding the Call Fast-Casual 4 4 • 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 • M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 8 the fast-casual sector. Developing a fast- casual concept, with its naturally smaller footprint and carryout-friendly design elements, ticked both trend boxes. Cracker Barrel also wanted to reach Millennials when they launched biscuit sandwich concept Holler & Dash, now seven stores strong. Its separate branding and service style attracts this desired de- mographic. The interior is warm and wel- coming, with wood finishes and localized elements, and it has a relaxed come-as- you-are employee culture that appeals to younger guests, says Holler & Dash Chief Operating Officer Michael Chissler. In addition, with its smaller foot- print and more urban vibe, Holler & Dash can succeed in places that aren't a natu- ral fit for Cracker Barrel, a full-service operation that traditionally thrives along interstates and in rural communities. Bono's Pit Bar-B-Q, in business since 1949 and based in Jacksonville, Fla., came at the development of its fast- casual cousin Willie Jewell's Old School Bar-B-Q from a different angle. Willie Jewell's was created nine years ago, be- fore Millennials became the demographic darlings of the restaurant industry. The concept, with 10 existing stores and another 4 to 5 set to open this year, wasn't designed to reach a different de- mographic group — but it was designed to attract a different group of franchisees. According to Bono's and Willie Jewell's President Josh Martino, building out a Bono's restaurant can cost up to $2 million. At that price, the business is simply out of reach for many potential franchise partners. Creating a smaller format store allowed the company to bring buildout costs down to between $550,000 and $750,000 — much easier numbers for franchisees and their lenders to swallow. Don't Hit Bone A lower price is indeed one of the benefits of fast-casual development. The buildout cost for Hurricane BTW is far lower than the full-service brand, Smith notes. BTW's construction costs are kept low in part through the use of lower cost materials that can be sourced at big box home improvement stores. The concept uses oriented strand board for its commu- nity tables and sauce bar and residential duct components for its soda runs. While these materials fit with the brand's look, described by Smith as "industrial surf shop," they wouldn't be found in a typical casual-dining restaurant. However, businesses looking to move into the fast-casual realm must be careful not to cut too deeply. At some point, the cuts detract from the cus- tomer experience. That concern played a big role in the development of Willie Jewell's, says Martino. For Bono's, the concept's heart is an open kitchen that showcases the authenticity of the food, with meat taken directly from the barbecue pit and cut to order in front of customers. While a pit isn't feasible at the fast-casual price point or footprint, the chain was determined to preserve this experience at Willie Jewell's. The concept, then, was given an open kitchen with a wood smoker. The smoker door is flush against the kitchen's back wall, and the cook- ing chamber sits outside. This allows customers to see the authenticity of the cooking and watch as meat is pulled from the smoker then cut to order. In the same way, Martino recom- mends that established concepts enter- ing the fast-casual segment maintain the core of their brands. "What are the things you absolutely love about your concept, that you couldn't do without, that if you stripped them away, you would lose the soul and base of your concept?" he asks. "On the same end, what are the things that give you the most frustration, that make your operation the hardest to run, but that you could live without? Write those down, and figure out a way to make up for them or just see if you need them at all. That can be the basis of your con- cept. That goes for personnel, for design, for decor." Protect One Brand, Develop Another While Willie Jewell's and its parent concept offer the same core experi- ence — and use the same recipes — the While Holler & Dash doesn't identify itself as part of the Cracker Barrel family, its design includes nods to its parent, including a gift shop and a counter designed like a barrel. Image courtesy of Holler & Dash

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