North Carolina–based Hwy 55, a full-serve concept known for its family-friendly ‘50s-style dining, is revving its engine to launch a new quick-serve model dubbed Hwy 55 Express. The first unit opened this week in Greenville, North Carolina, serving up the brand’s burgers, sandwiches, fries, and frozen custards.
“You’re always looking for different models to set yourself up with. This particular model could go into airports and rest stops and various other small locations,” says Kenny Moore, founder and CEO of Hwy 55. “We like to do 2,000–2,4000 square feet normally with our full-service restaurants, and sometimes that space just isn’t available.”
Just as many quick-serve brands increasingly look to nontraditional expansion with a smaller footprint, Hwy 55 Express will open more opportunities for the brand to go places it couldn’t with the full-service concept. The Greenville unit is located near student housing for East Carolina University, Moore says, and he expects the quick-serve model will thrive for that reason. Plans are in the works for a unit in Florida off the turnpike, he adds. Reducing space isn’t the only factor that went in to the creation of the quick-serve model, however: Moore says new regulations on the industry have many operators looking at ways to scale down.
“With a potential minimum wage increase and other regulations, we have to figure out how to deliver our product with fewer employees—that’s obviously in the background, but it is another reason we’re doing this,” he says.
The menu at Hwy 55 Express will feature the full-serve brand’s classic burgers, hot dog, and four chicken sandwiches. Platters and entrée plates, which are more recent additions to the full-serve menu, will not make an appearance.
Moore says the Express model will also allow the brand to enter into new markets outside of the Southeast. The brand does have a handful of international units, too.
“The store we opened in Abu Dhabi in the Middle East is one of our top stores, and it shows that the products and food carries well beyond North Carolina and the Southeast,” Moore says.
By Tamara Omazic