Restaurant Development & Design

MAY-JUN 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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2 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 Y / J U N E 2 0 1 8 Peer to Peer store, we have put in the name of the city and the longitude and latitude coor- dinates of that specific store. And that's an element we're integrating into every store we touch. It gives it a sense of place for that store. We put the longitude and latitude coordinates in other places throughout the store. One challenge we've encountered is how to dampen those bells so they don't give our customers heart attacks. We've dipped them and coated them, but this is what you encounter when moving to real items. I hate when you walk into a restaurant and you get the idea of what they were trying to do, but they did it in the cheapest way possible. For just a little more money, they could get the real thing, but they've been relegated to creating a faux version of the original to save a little money and to replicate something on a larger scale. That balance is hard to manage, but I've made it a personal challenge to do that: to stay with real materials as much as I can. Also, at our Louisville flagship, we took extra effort to incorporate elements from local artists and sources. For in- stance, we had a local industrial design company, Rockerbuilt, build a really large ceiling element in our new store. We also had a local artist, Bryan Patrick Todd, do a large exterior mural with the coordinates for that location. What's the next step with this reimage? LAV: We've done 9 full remodels. We have about 1,000 single and multibrand units. We are still working on value engineering this image so that it's more palatable to the system. We're buying back stores as company stores for the first time in many, many years. So, we're working to revive those, and we have to be very frugal. Most of these build- ings are from 30 to 49 years old and haven't had any major remodels, so that is our major challenge right now. So any change is a big change. Coming up with a stopping point is a top thing because we could continue to remodel, remodel, remodel because everything needs atten- tion and reinvestment. There are times when we have to stop and assess: How much more can we get out of this build- ing if it hasn't been maintained for 40 years? At what point do we look at relo- cating or rebuilding versus remodeling? We also have a refresh program, and it has about a $50,000 target reinvest- ment, and it includes any deferred maintenance on the exterior, new paint, new signs, updating and/or repairing the parking lot and landscape, and then a minor dining room upgrade. What are the biggest challenges facing your team right now, and what are you doing to meet them? LAV: The biggest challenges are how to value engineer this reimage and how to find the right construction methods to roll this out system wide. We are in the testing phase right now. We have a lot of franchisees that love the idea and they love the image, but they're just sitting back and waiting to see what the results are on the nine we've done. If you roll in this new prototype, we've had some outstanding results so far. We've got some that are up 30 percent in sales from before the reimage. One of our big challenges was that we had a shorter development period than most restaurants because we were not only dealing with spring weather but Lent is very important to us. We get 40 percent of our annual sales during Lent. That time is hands-off. We leave the stores alone during Lent, and we don't want to com- promise or stress them during that time. What about nontraditional units? LAV: We are working on an LJS Express concept. We are soliciting partners in that. We're focusing on gas and conve- nience stores. We want to partner with a single convenience store company so that we can do several and do them as com- pany stores so that we can manage, test and vet thoroughly. We expect to have a full program set up by June, and that will also include a breakfast menu. + The True North image is only the third revamp in the chain's 50-year history. Image courtesy of Aerial State Media Co.

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