Despite macroeconomic pressures, Long John Silver’s maintained its value proposition. Shortreed credits the fact the chain doesn’t rely on protein, which has skyrocketed in costs over the past year.
The brand hasn’t fully escaped inflationary pressures, however, but its flexible menu released the valve a bit.
“That’s the beauty about our business,” he says. “We can do something other than fish. We can do shrimp, we can do chicken planks. As pricing of commodities goes up, we can interchange how we add value to our consumer.”
With the advertising budget now settled, thanks to newly appointed president Stephanie Mattingly, Long John Silver’s is focused on getting its value message onto TVs and in front of customers.
“[Competitors] are typically not showing you a $10 price point on TV,” he says. “We’re trying to get our price point on TV ... We’re trying to take full advantage of that to get a value message to our consumer.”
As the brand appreciates sustained success, the next phase is revitalizing expansion, particularly on the international front. Long John Silver’s has 24 units in Singapore and plans to scale into Indonesia, with up to 50 units. Southeast Asia is of interest to Long John Silver’s because of the local dietary habits. The two largest forms of protein consumed by the population are seafood and chicken.
The expansion into Indonesia will be spearheaded by the operator of the Singapore units.
“He has a vision for he and his family to grow Long John Silver’s, and we came to the realization that we’re probably better to have a master franchise agreement,” Shortreed says. “Indonesia was a perfect market … It was basically the perfect storm coming together and we will focus on Southeast Asia and that’s where we’ll end up looking to have a presence long term.”
The brand will also explore opportunities in the Middle East, like United Arab Emirates.
“We’re still working through the details of that,” Shortreed says. “I’d give that a 50/50 chance of moving forward, but again, it’s good that large investment partners are showing an interest in the brand.”
Domestically, Long John Silver’s will work toward positive net growth and reinvesting in existing outlets, including new landscaping, signage, and a sleeker, modernized design, or as Shorteed says, “we've just taken a 50-year-old brand and cleaned it all up for a consumer.”
Refreshed units were expected to increase sales 5–10 percent, but they’ve outperformed expectations, with sales growing 15–20 percent.
Long John Silver’s isn’t ready to consider new franchisees domestically just yet, but if the current trend of positive sales continues, it could soon.
Just being able to contemplate U.S. growth is a win for Long John Silver’s, Shortreed says. For a brand on the brink several years ago, renewed optimism isn’t lost on new leadership.
“We know that there is love for this brand … Once we get that momentum going, we’ll start entertaining new franchisees, we have a broker now,” he says. “But, I think we want to try and grow from within at this point in time.”
“I’m excited about the opportunity to grow domestically," he adds. "… I think I can see that on the horizon,” he says. “Where I think two years ago I couldn’t."