Franchisees took the opportunity to discuss marketing strategy and brand awareness. The chain will continues to expand its new Market Fresh line, which will be available in 30 markets this October. Market Fresh is a line of four deli-style sandwiches, featuring thick bread and roasted meats. Arby's plans to offer the line in a majority of its markets by 2001.
"Market Fresh is indicative of Arby's brand positioning toward adult diners," said Jon May, CEO of Triarc Restaurant Group, franchisor the Arby's brand. "Last year, we claimed our distinction as offering a higher-quality of fast food that appeals to more mature tastes. With Market Fresh, we are expanding our menu to meet the need of our core demographic with a deluxe sandwich that only Arby's can deliver."
Other convention highlights included the largest Arby's trade show and exhibit hall, which showcased more than 200 vendors and a full-scale Arby's Pinnacle-design restaurant. Inside the restaurant, Arby's unveiled its new Kitchen of the Future prototype, fitted with equipment and technology that is being tested for existing and new Arby's restaurants. The new equipment included a convected air warming station that uses heated, circulated air to keep fries and sandwiches hotter longer. Overall changes to the floorplan include rearranging equipment to achieve shorter travel distances to assemble orders and creating work cells in the back that put all order makeup items within fast and easy reach of employees.
"Stellar operations is the key to excellent product quality and to meeting the higher demands of our customers," said Michael Howe, president and COO of TRG. "The Kitchen of the Future does several things. It keeps Arby's in competitive company within the industry in terms of restaurant design and backline/frontline operations. It assists the brand in training and retaining employees who are innovative and customer-focused. And it raises the bar for technological advancement and acceptance within our own system."
Outside the model restaurant, master chef Tony Seta, vice president of menu and product development for TRG, held cooking demonstrations of some sandwiches that may be on the menu in the future. Seta created "concept sandwiches," which were inspired by the feedback Seta received during Arby's menu 2005 Summit in March, where food and equipment manufacturers brainstormed on the trends of fast food.
"A lot is happening with consumer palates," said Seta. The strong economy ad increase in baby boomers means more people have experienced fine dining and, therefore, expectations for taste and flavor has increased—even among the fast food consumer. Menu items from both fine and casual dining restaurants are going to continue to interact with fast food menus."
Arby's holds its Worldwide Franchise Convention every other year, inviting its franchisees of record and their key management members. In addition to strategic meetings and operational breakout sessions, the convention is an opportunity for franchisees to network and build upon the system's successes.