Great Wraps Grill CEO and chairman Mark Kaplan says that when he and company president Bob Solomon started the now 26-year-old hot wrap concept, few people knew what a wrap was.
“We bought a small Mediterranean food company called Gyro Wrap and rebranded those few stores to Great Wraps,” Kaplan says. “We had a strong following of people who loved hot-off-the-grill food, but we knew we needed to expand the menu and deliver fresher, healthier offerings, so we did that with wraps.”
He says Great Wraps was the first fast-casual concept dedicated to wraps.
“People would see our sign and ask if we were a gift-wrap company or a body-wrap company,” Kaplan says.
Now, he says, wraps are ubiquitous. But they are not always “great” wraps.
“Others have added wraps to their menus, but they are cold and premade,” Kaplan says. “They are not doing what we are doing. Our wraps are fresh off the grill so they are hot on the inside and hot on outside. Some places might put their wrap on a panini grill and heat it up for you, but it won’t be hot on the inside. It won’t be fresh-made.”
Great Wraps Grill
CEO and Chairman: Mark Kaplan
HQ: Atlanta, Georgia
YEAR STARTED: 1989
ANNUAL SALES: Undisclosed
TOTAL UNITS: 72
FRANCHISE UNITS: 71
Kaplan says wraps are more portable and more convenient than other sandwiches, and if made right, provide a big bite of all the ingredients and sauce in one.
Flavors are enhanced in best-sellers like the Chipotle Chicken Wrap, made with grilled chicken, Pepper Jack cheese, black bean and corn salsa, grilled onions, romaine, and chipotle ranch dressing. Another popular hot wrap is the Santa Fe Chicken, made with grilled chicken, bacon, Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and creamy Feta.
Wraps are priced from $5.49 to $5.79, and the per person ticket average at Great Wraps Grill is about $7.75. “About 65 percent of our customers order a combo, which will bring the check total above $8,” Kaplan says.
Side options in those combos include hummus and pita, four different salads— Black Bean & Corn, Garden Salad, Grecian Salad, and Greek Salad—and Kurly Fries.
After getting their fries, guests at Great Wraps Grill head to the “flavor bar” to shake on their favorite spice blend.
“The only major flavors for fries in this country are ketchup and salt,” Kaplan says. “That’s not enough. We have eight proprietary spice blends we’ve developed. People can pick their favorite or combine them.”
Kaplan says that, to be successful for almost three decades, the company has had to be flexible. Earlier this year, it went through a complete rebranding, changing its name from Great Wraps to Great Wraps Grill and offering customers more opportunities to customize their food.
According to Great Wraps Grill, stores have increased sales by as much as 30–40 percent since the rebranding, which also involved remodeling so customers could see the food being prepared. “They want to see it and have the sense that someone just cooked it for them,” Kaplan says. “In general, when concepts are listening, that’s when they succeed.”
When customers asked for more grilled items, Great Wraps started making a cheese-steak sandwich, which has become popular, Kaplan says. Cheesesteaks are now available in four varieties: Philly Cheesesteak, Chipotle Bacon Cheesesteak, Buffalo Chicken Philly, and Chicken Philly. The cheesesteaks are served on hoagie rolls.
“A cheesesteak at a wrap concept? Well, that’s what the customers wanted,” Kaplan says. “We also got a lot of calls for fresh-squeezed lemonade, so we’re rolling it out to all the stores. We make changes based on what customers want.”
In the past 18 months, Great Wraps Grill has also added a smoothie menu, and about half the stores now offer them in flavors like Mango Berry, Caribbean Kiwi, and Tropicolada. The company aggressively researched and created natural recipes using real fruit and real purées, Kaplan says.
The smoothies help spread out sales throughout the day, he adds.
“Lunch is our sweet spot, and the smoothies give us something to sell between 2 and 6 P.M.,” Kaplan says. “That was the logic behind bringing them in.”
Smoothies work well in Great Wraps Grill’s mall and airport locations and promise to be popular in college campus locations—the first of which opened this year.
“Now that the rebranding has been launched, there are plans to open 10–12 stores a year,” Kaplan says. “Up to now our growth has been four to six stores a year mostly growing out from Atlanta. We’re in three airports and we will be on college campuses and have goals to be in other nontraditional locations like hospitals and military bases. But we’re also aggressively moving in our core sector, which are regional malls and café locations.”
Great Wraps Grill mall food-court locations are about 700 square feet, while café locations are generally about 1,800 square feet and located in business districts rather than strip centers. Great Wraps Grills has concentrated its growth in second-tier markets and plans to continue that focus.