Web Exclusive | November 2011 | By Judy Kneiszel

Mr. Goodcents Rebrands

Former CEO of Applebee’s, David Goebel, is spearheading the changes at the brand.

Formality is being phased out at a Kansas City, Missouri–based quick-serve chain. Customers will no longer have to use a courtesy title when addressing Mr. Goodcents.

The 96-unit sandwich concept, with locations in nine states, is undergoing a rebranding, which includes changing its name from Mr. Goodcents Subs and Pasta to Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs.

CEO David Goebel, the former CEO of Applebee’s who became a Mr. Goodcents franchisee before taking over the company last year, is spearheading the changes.

“Consumers refer to us as Goodcents already,” Goebel says. “I used two of my restaurants as guinea pigs for the name and signage changes. The fact that previous signage highlighted ‘Goodcents’ in the name and that remains at the core of the signage reduces risk of alienating anyone.”

It’s not just the name that’s getting an overhaul at Goodcents; much of the company’s branding and décor is also getting a facelift. Changes include interior remodeling, the inclusion of a drive thru where feasible, and even new menu items.

“As far as the interior design, we were a little dated,” Goebel says. “We’ve gone to a rich tile floor in traffic areas and carpet under the dining area, which warms up the dining room. The color scheme is kind of earthy and we’ve added a lot of wall art.”

The menu changes include adding wraps and salads. These additions are being tested at a new Goodcents location near the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City where Goebel says the new items are “doing very well.”

“They fit with the freshness of the overall menu,” he says. “It’s a nice line extension.”  

Goebel studied the feasibility of branding changes from a special perspective. After leaving Applebee’s in 2008, he became a Mr. Goodcents franchisee, operating seven of the sandwich shops he’s been enamored with since the ’90s.

In 2010 he become CEO of Mr. Goodcents.

David Kincheloe, president of Denver-based National Restaurant Consultants, says adding wraps to the menu goes hand in hand with Goodcent’s focus on freshness, and that the wraps even work better in the concept’s new drive thru.

“People perceive wraps as healthier, and they are a lot easier to eat in the car than a sub sandwich,” he says.

Goebel says his being both franchisee and franchisor gives his ideas credibility with other franchisees.

“The fact that previous signage highlighted ‘Goodcents’ in the name and that remains at the core of the signage reduces risk of alienating anyone.”

“When I came in as a franchisee, I loved the core product but felt we needed to package it in a nicer, more contemporary setting. ” he says.

“I’ve told the franchisees, ‘I think you’re going to like this, because I wake up every morning worried about the same things you do.”

Jeff Barclay, a Goodcents franchisee with four stores in Lincoln, Nebraska, implemented the recommendation to add a drive thru to his latest store, becoming one of three in the Goodcents chain to offer the service.

“It’s a really nice addition to our business,” he says. “It allows us to run two lines instead of one, and it’s a real convenience factor for the customer.”

Barclay says the speed at which Goodcents can serve drive-thru customers is “phenomenal, when you consider we’re doing customized sandwiches.” He says a drive-thru transaction can be completed in 2 minutes and 45 seconds per car at Goodcents.

Extensive market research also confirmed Goebel’s beliefs that what set Mr. Goodcents apart was its bread, which is soft and baked fresh on-site twice a day. In addition, customers like that the meat is sliced to order.

“Guests told us that makes it a fresher sandwich,” Goebel says. “So if the research says that’s what customers like, let’s take advantage of it and reflect that freshness in the name and signage.”

He says customers found the 22-year-old signage dated and difficult to read, but as with all the proposed changes, he’s being sensitive to the franchisees and “not racing to the table.”

“I’m not going to draw a line in the sand,” he says. “We have franchisees on a six-year remodel schedule so the changes will be staggered across the system. When they remodel, they will get interior changes first, and next they’ll get the signage. If they want to accelerate the schedule, we’ll talk to them.”

In fact, Goebel says, “quite a sizable number have come forward” with their desire to start making the changes sooner than scheduled, confirming that he’s on the right track when it comes to rebranding.

Kincheloe says none of the changes being made to the Goodcents brand are too radical to succeed.

“They are just refreshing things,” he says. “Restaurants should take a hard look at everything every five to seven years anyway. A good franchisee is planning for that all along.”

Kincheloe says Goebel will get a lot of cooperation from franchisees as the changes are rolled out.

“Since he’s a franchisee also, he’s probably experienced these same needs and wants on that side,” Kincheloe says.

“A lot of franchisors don’t talk to franchisees. There are other chains out there that have failed miserably because they haven’t listened to franchisees.”