Emerging Concepts | December 2010 | By Judy Kneiszel

Ranch One

Kahala concept hopes its grilled chicken sandwiches, salads, and wraps will drive it to the top of the chicken-segment heap.
Grilled chicken dishes are the core of the menu at Ranch One.
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The founders of Ranch One, Ori Gottlieb and Mordechai Davidi, had one goal in mind when they opened their first restaurant next to the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City: They wanted to have the No. 1 grilled chicken sandwich concept in the country.

That was 1990. In 1997, restaurant industry expert George Naddaff became chairman and CEO of Ranch One, planning for its expansion. Then, in 2002, Kahala Corp. acquired the struggling concept, adding the chicken sandwich chain to a portfolio that already included Surf City Squeeze, Frullati Café & Bakery, and Rollerz.

That first store on Broadway has since closed, others have come and gone, and now 25 are open—but the founders’ goal remains.

This year, the means of attaining that goal were tweaked by a refreshing of the brand. Adjustments included a name change—from the numeric Ranch*1 to the alphabetic Ranch One—as well as a new tagline, “Chicken Made Fresh.”

“It’s always been about food preparation and quality,” says Kristen Esposite, national marketing manager for Ranch One. “Customers can view the chicken being grilled over an open flame. They can smell it, and hear it sizzle, and they know they are getting high-quality, tasty, healthy menu items. Because the food has such a good reputation, we have refreshed our brand elements to spread that message and grow the brand.”

Esposite says the new look was intended to create separation between Ranch One and traditional quick-serve restaurants by drawing attention to the food quality—the defining characteristic of the brand. The upgrade includes renewing the look of the restaurants with a sophisticated black and white motif, as well as keeping Ranch One’s signature shade of yellow by incorporating it into the new logo and store design, thus bridging the past with the present. The new design also incorporates bold photos of menu items throughout the stores. Going forward, all new stores will have the refreshed look. Existing stores will eventually be revamped.

“The overall goal of the brand refresh is to draw attention to Ranch One’s food quality and food preparation through photography, messaging, and upscale décor elements,” Esposite says. “The redesign will further strengthen the brand, giving Ranch One’s logo and restaurant design that same feeling of quality that customers perceive when they enjoy the food.”

The new design concept debuted at the University Village shopping center in Riverside, California, the concept’s first foray into California. Ranch One also has locations in New York, New Jersey, Washington, Texas, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut. The concept’s seven international locations are in Kuwait and Taiwan.

“Our customer demographic is focused on adults ages 18–45,” Esposite says. “We attract that on-the-go diner who wants to be health conscious. So we think we’ll fit in well in California, where people are certainly aware of that healthy dining movement.”

The Ranch One menu consists of made-to-order grilled chicken sandwiches, salads made with grilled chicken, and hand-breaded chicken tenders for occasions when customers want to indulge in something fried.

Ranch One

CEO: Kevin Blackwell, Kahala Corp.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

YEAR STARTED: 1990

ANNUAL SALES: Undisclosed

TOTAL UNITS: 25

FRANCHISE UNITS: 25

www.ranch1.com

The Ranch Classic sandwich, which is a grilled chicken breast topped with salad greens in an Italian-type dressing, toasted almonds, and Ranch One’s signature Roasted Red Pepper sauce, is a customer favorite. It is served on a fresh baked semolina roll. For $6.50, the Ranch Classic sandwich combo meal includes french fries and a drink.

Some Ranch One locations offer baked potatoes as a healthier alternative to fries, but beyond that, the menu is focused on chicken. One option is the Chicken and Cheese sandwich, a Chicken Philly with melted mozzarella topped with sautéed peppers and onions. Others include a Chicken Fajita with grilled chicken, cheese, tomato, and onion wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla, and a Teriyaki Chicken Bowl, which combines grilled chicken with rice seasoned with Teriyaki dressing.

“We keep it simple,” Esposite says. “We focus on chicken because there’s a lot you can do with flavor profiles and recipes when you start with chicken.”

A couple of times each year, Ranch One adds a limited-time offer to the menu. The most recent, a Chicken Lettuce Wrap that weighed in at less than 500 calories, has a permanent place on the menu in the new California store and may return to other locations.

Regardless of location, Ranch One diners can choose from three sauces to enhance their wrap, sandwich, or other menu options. These include BBQ, Honey Mustard, and the most popular sauce, Roasted Red Pepper, which is made from a proprietary recipe.

While Kahala is focused on refreshing the Ranch One brand, some individual franchisees are focusing on connecting with customers through social networking.

“One store started a Facebook page and they are doing in-store promotions to increase fans,” Esposite says. “They give special offers to people who like them on Facebook. It’s really building a fan base. It’s exciting.”

It’s also exciting that Ranch One recently got a prominent TV endorsement. “We made it onto The View,” Esposite says. “They were doing a story on healthy dining options in New York City, and we were mentioned.”