Web Exclusive | October 2015 | By Paul Gereffi

Newk’s Next Generation

“Generation Two” design will be an integral part of brand’s growth.
Leading Southern QSR fast casual brand updates store design with new prototype.
A rendering of Newk's "Generation Two" store design. image used with permission.

Newk’s Eatery is bringing a new image to its growing brand, one that cofounder and CEO Chris Newcomb says will be an important component of the fast casual’s future expansion plans.

The Newk’s team rolled out an all-new store design on October 26 in a Lafayette, Louisiana, restaurant. Dubbed “Generation Two,” the new design represents a fresh, on-trend look for the brand. The new design will add to the experience for those already familiar with Newk’s, Newcomb says, while offering increased appeal to new customers. He adds that the company hopes the layout will resonate in new markets, as the 85-unit chain plans to double in size by 2018.

The Jackson, Mississippi–based Newk’s bills itself as the next generation of fast-casual dining and is planning to build on its signature components—open kitchen, condiment station, and casual atmosphere—while adding elements in the Generation Two design that reflect the chain’s mission to serve the finest ingredients with the utmost hospitality.

“Our previous design is 11 years old, and we want to upscale for the next generation of fast casual and continue with Generation Two as we expand into major markets,” he says.

Newk’s will be entering new markets over the next three years, most of which are larger and more urban than its previous markets, Newcomb says, such as Houston, San Antonio, and Tampa–St. Petersburg, Florida. It will also intensify corporate growth in 2016 and is targeting Dallas; Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

Newk’s building and design project manager, Rachael Myrick, designed Generation Two in partnership with Studio B, a Houston-based strategic brand design firm. It builds on a new color scheme and incorporates the hues of Newk’s always-fresh ingredients. Floor-plan changes add comfort to the in-store dining experience and expedite ordering and takeout.

“The inspiration for the design comes from our fresh ingredients,” Myrick says. “The colors of red, green, and muted gold emphasize that freshness.”

“The inspiration for the design comes from our fresh ingredients. The colors of red, green, and muted gold emphasize that freshness.”

Myrick says the team opted to use a larger version of subway tile in the new design. Potted herbs throughout the restaurant add a living and growing reminder of the freshness of the ingredients. In addition, pendant lightning and plush upholstery emphasize Newk’s position as an upscale fast-casual brand, while a new floor plan offers increased intimacy in the seating areas. Finally, the design takes into consideration the cost of upgrading for franchisees—a very important consideration as the chain plans to retrofit all of its existing units, the majority of which are franchised. The leadership team hopes the design plans will fuel growth while keeping build-out costs minimal.

Newk’s culinary-driven lunch and dinner menu includes soups, salads, pizzas, and sandwiches all made fresh daily in open-view kitchens. The dining area is built around its signature “roundtable,” where customers can customize their meals with complimentary toppings and add-ons such as condiments, sweet pickles, oven-roasted garlic, breadsticks, and other items. The roundtable concept will be an integral part of the Generation Two design. A new table-top marketing program will also share “did you know” facts about the brand. 

Newk’s also plans to roll out a digital menuboard to make the ordering process easier. A digital screen, connected to the restaurant’s POS system, will automatically alert customers to menu specials and limited-time offers and will serve as a test for a full digital menuboard rollout planned for early 2016.

Distressed wood and herb pots—with the cilantro, chives, and basil that are used in many of Newk’s scratch-made menu items—will frame the digital menu screen in a vertical garden to reflect the philosophy that fast casual and culinary can be great partners, Myrick says.

Newk’s was founded in 2004 by Newcomb, his father Don, and Debra Bryson, the same team that had previously created the McAlister’s Deli concept. Newcomb says that, while the changes offer a new way for customers to connect with the brand, it’s the food that ultimately brings them back.

“We have a loyal fan base, and they will enjoy the improvements,” Newcomb says.

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