Zaxby’s, a Southeast favorite for chicken fingers and buffalo wings, and one of the nation’s fastest growing restaurant chains, is spreading its wings to its 13th state. The fast-casual restaurant will open its first location in West Monroe, Louisiana, today, Monday, July 2, and plans to have approximately 575 locations across its footprint by the start of 2013.
Zaxby’s announced today that it signed a multi-unit development agreement with Hoozax Foods, Inc. to open 32 Zaxby’s restaurants in the Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia, areas within the next seven years.
Based in Suwanee, Georgia, Hoozax Foods, Inc., is led by Duane Hoover and son Carl Hoover, successful entrepreneurs with past experience in multi-unit franchises. The partnership will make Hoozax Foods, Inc. one of Zaxby’s largest franchisees.
Fast-casual chains strengthened their gains on the overall restaurant industry, with the top 150 fast-casual chains growing 8.4 percent to $21.5 billion in 2011, a faster rate than in 2010 (6.6 percent). In comparison, 2011 sales growth for the Top 500 U.S. chains was 3.5 percent.
Zaxby’s announces the appointment of Blake Bailey to chief financial officer for Zaxby’s Franchising, Inc (ZFI). Bailey succeeds Tony Townley, founding partner with Zach McLeroy, chief executive officer of ZFI.
Townley is relinquishing the title of CFO for his new title, executive vice president, in an effort to streamline the financial responsibilities of the business and the day-to-day decision-making process, as well as increase the collaboration and innovation of the management team.
Zaxby’s fanatics can once again enjoy the wildly popular Zensation Zalad and the new Brownie Batter Milkshake as part of the chain’s latest limited-time-only promotion. Appearing in two TV spots each, Zaxby’s has enlisted television personalities Jill Hennessy and Chris Kattan.
They mark two in a long list of celebrities who have been featured in recent years for the chain’s “Indescribably Good” advertising campaign.
Recognized for the first time, Zaxby’s has been ranked No. 7 in the Top 10 Excellent Large Fast-Food Chains with 500 or more U.S. units in the recently published Quick-Track study conducted by Sandelman & Associates in 2011. Ranked alongside chains like Starbucks and Panera Bread, 51 percent of Zaxby’s guests rated their overall experience a five, or “excellent,” on a five-point scale, showing the company’s distinction in customer satisfaction in the restaurant industry.
Zaxby’s unveiled its newest store design, an overhaul of the exterior and refresh of the interior that will debut in two corporate-owned locations in February.
Zach McLeroy, cofounder and CEO of Athens, Georgia–based Zaxby’s, says this is the third time the company has changed its design as it strives to set itself apart from other fast-casual operators.
“A lot of people have the philosophy, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’ and I don’t believe that philosophy, because I think you’re always trying to make your system better,” McLeroy says.
Zaxby’s, at the request of its beloved fanatics, is returning its Fried Pickles and featuring its Chicken Finger Sandwich Meal as part of the chain’s latest promotion.
The much-loved menu items will be promoted by the chain’s newest fanatic, Rachel Dratch, best known for her career on the late-night television sketch comedy “Saturday Night Live.” Dratch expresses her hunger for Zaxby’s in four TV commercials that will begin airing today.
Zaxby’s Franchising Inc. of Athens, Georgia, was named a 2011 Champion of Learning in recognition of its commitment to workplace learning and understanding of its impact on organizational and employee performance. Zaxby’s employs 175 in Athens and specializes in prepared-at-order Chicken Fingerz, Jumbo Buffalo Wings, sandwiches, Zalads, and Zappetizers, along with a variety of nine sauces ranging from Wimpy and Tongue Torch to Nuclear and Insane.
Zaxby’s has Doris Roberts, Terry Bradshaw, and Ryan Stiles. Subway has Apolo Anton Ohno, Michael Phelps, and Blake Griffin. Now Starbucks and Lady Gaga are teaming up. The question remains, however, whether star power in a quick serve’s marketing efforts can add up to big sales.
To fully harness the powerful influence of a celebrity, experts say, quick-serve operators must clearly define the role of that celebrity, not just go for the instant name recognition.