After the significant drop in sales, Long John Silver’s rallied to finish the year with positive growth. This set the groundwork for the revitalization phase of the brand’s turnaround in 2021.
One of the targets is improving speed of service. Shortreed is the first to admit the brand struggles with quickness; even though sales became positive and average check increased, traffic still dropped 6.5 percent in 2020.
Long John Silver’s is aiming to resolve this issue ahead of Lenten season. By then, 100 percent of company stores will have a timer—the same ones used by McDonald’s. Shortreed says the restaurants are focused on total time, which means from the time a consumer orders to the moment they leave the window. The goal is to reduce that from five and a half to six minutes to under four minutes. He estimates that for every 30 seconds of improvement, Long John Silver’s traffic count improves by roughly 1 percent. The restaurant learned through customer feedback that speed went from No. 4 on the priority list to No. 1, and accuracy went from No. 5 to No. 2.
“Right now, we're not as fast as we'd like,” Shortreed says. “And neither are franchisees who we continue to work with.”
Another objective in 2021 is creating an online ordering platform, especially since 60 to 70 percent of consumers visit the website to search for a delivery or pickup option. CMO Stephanie Mattingly explains that the first step toward mobile ordering and making the brand more accessible was partnering with third-party aggregators. By April, 90 percent of the system utilized delivery services. However, Long John Silver’s faced what many operators have lamented—high delivery fees absorbed by restaurants and consumers. To circumvent these high costs, Long Silver’s is planning to build online ordering through the website, which will not only give it valuable access to customer information, but also the ability to reward the most loyal guests.
Mattingly says the new platform is scheduled to arrive within the next month.
“That's what I think customers can expect is just an easier experience,” Mattingly says. “A less expensive experience and a better way to get the food they love and that they crave from Long John Silver’s.”
The brand will continue to innovate around the menu to attract new and existing consumers, as well. In recent years, Long John Silver’s experienced success with new items like the grilled menu lineup featuring Grilled Shrimp and Salmon Meals, Tacos, and Rice Bowls. The items mix 5 to 6 percent without much advertising behind them. In 2021, Long John Silver’s will roll out Lobster Bites—a successful promotion that ran a few years ago—and a Lent promotion focused on grilled, popcorn, and hand-battered shrimp.
Mattingly says the goal is to unveil new product news at least two to three times each year, starting with Lent.
“That was one of the things that I wanted to do when I came to Long John Silver’s—just bring back that testing and that rigor and roll what we test and test what we roll, and make sure that the consumers actually like the product and we're not just putting something out there that won't sell or it's just not innate for our brand,” Mattingly says.