Industry News | January 25, 2010

Johnny Rockets Set to Dabble in Quick Service

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In an effort to expand its opportunities for existing and potential franchisees, Johnny Rockets announced that it is offering a new quick-service prototype.

The FAST! model of Johnny Rockets, which ranges from 900 to 1,200 square feet, is now available for franchisees who can’t find or afford the 1,800–2,000 square feet required for the traditional unit.

“It allows us to head in maybe nontraditional locations or those smaller spaces that are available, especially in some of those bigger cities where rent can be outrageous,” says John Fuller, president and CEO of Johnny Rockets. “So it offers another way to get more points of distribution.”

The FAST! prototype will feature a streamlined menu, more condensed equipment, and lower initial investment for franchisees. Fuller says the FAST! model costs about half of what the traditional model costs.

Each FAST! unit will also include only limited seating and no dining room—meaning there will be no singing and dancing staff, which the brand is known for.

“People can come and go, [and] there’ll be maybe six to 10 seats available,” Fuller says. “But it won’t be the traditional Rockets experience.”

Fuller, who was announced as the new president and CEO last week after serving as chief financial officer of the typically casual-dining burger chain since 2008, says the new prototype does not alter the strategic growth plan of the brand.

“We still want to have as many traditional locations as we can as well, it just allows people who can’t find the square footage and have maybe some smaller choices … something that would fit for them,” he says.

Fuller also says that the company, which plans to open about 30–40 new units in 2010, won’t push specifically for expansion with its FAST! model.

“If someone comes in and wants to sign up for an area development agreement, we’d still want them to have [the option of] the traditional locations as well as the FAST! locations,” he says.

Johnny Rockets is also launching sports bar and mobile kitchen prototypes. The mobile kitchen is another quick-service option, offering a food truck for franchisees who want to take the brand to sports activities or other events.

“The mobile kitchen, although it’s a new choice, it’s not something we’re actively out there doing,” Fuller says. “If we do one or two year, that’s probably good enough.”

While no FAST! units have been sold to franchisees yet, Fuller says there is definitely interest brewing.

“Several franchisees have shown interest in doing the FAST! model as soon as they can find the right location for it,” he says.

By Sam Oches