Industry News | September 12, 2008

Schlotzsky's First Two Years with Focus

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Schlotzsky’s has set its sights on the Middle East only two years after joining the FOCUS Brands family. With the quick-serve powerhouse behind the deli company, Schlotzsky’s is planning to open 60 units in the next five years. And, according to insiders, there’s strong potential for more stores in the region after that.

The brand’s debut in the area will be in Jordan. Mike Shattuck, senior vice president of international for the company, is confident the brand and its offerings will be well received. “This region is one of our strongholds because we already have significant penetration there with our Cinnabon brand and a group of stellar franchise partners,” he wrote in an e-mail to QSR.

Some might read this as somewhat of a fast-food Cinderella story—too good to be true. It was only 2004 when the company, led by then-President-and-CEO Sam Coats, filed for bankruptcy. By late 2006, Focus bought the company and less than a year ago, current brand president, Kelly Roddy was appointed to the helm. Is the whirlwind turnaround overextending the previously fragile brand? Shattuck says absolutely not.

“Between our strong brand foundation and international experience and initiatives, the key ingredients are in place to leverage our international platform for Schlotzsky’s and all concepts in the Focus Brands portfolio,” he writes.

The brand foundation Shattuck references is the emphasis corporate is putting on franchisee relations. “[We’ve been] letting franchisees have ownership in the decision making process—really focusing on how we make our franchisees successful,” Roddy says. “That has in turn helped us grow through existing franchisees.”

Practices like involving franchisees in weekly committee meetings returned the brand to basic operations success. “If something doesn’t work in their restaurant, it doesn’t make sense to do it,” Roddy says matter of factly.

All of 2009, however, will not be dedicated to conference calls and relationship building. Schlotzsky’s has big plans to expand its catering operations which rolled out in January of this year. In-store customers aren’t getting left out either, though. According to Roddy, the company is actively looking at offering limited table service in the upcoming year. “We actually deliver the food to the table after the customer orders it,” he says. “That will be a huge focus for us.”

--Blair Chancey