Clock calls this “a big idea” for Newk’s. It’s definitely a sizable change. The company was working to use Bite Kiosk software in Zivelo and NCR self-order kiosks before, which it expected to roll out across the footprint.
The mobile version uses the same kiosk software Newk’s boasted before, just optimized for personal devices.
Clock says Newk’s is no longer forging ahead with traditional kiosks given the climate. “We don’t think anyone wants to go start touching things that somebody else already touched,” he says. Newk’s is holding off until Q1 to launch a significant push behind it, Clock adds.
In the meantime, Newk’s is working to finalize a new app so curbside, loyalty, contactless payment, and QR codes can all host in one place. Clock expects that to land in November.
Self-delivery is coming, too. Not just direct through its app and site, but food actually delivered by Newk’s employees. “We’d like to control the experience, all through the whole process,” says Clock, hinting at 2021 as a launch date.
As these pivots picked up, Clock says transparency with franchisees did as well. Of the 120 or so units in Newk’s base, only 21 are company-run.
The brand removed all royalties in March and April and went to half in June. It also reduced ad fund contributions by 75 points. “Given the lower-volume sales, we want them to keep that in their pocket,” Clock says.
Newk’s kept the lines open with weekly—sometimes bi-weekly—calls. Not just to remain transparent, but also to hear success stories from the COVID trenches.
A lead request, given staffing challenges, was to pare down one of the fast-casual category’s more robust menus. Newk’s features about 39 core items and 400 SKUs coming out of the back.
For those units that closed and wanted to reopen, Newk’s developed a 16-item lineup. If the location was open and remained that way, it reduced to 27. In total, the 400 SKUs dropped to 250.
This dropped food cost a full four points as Newk’s also brought in some product that didn’t require as much preparation, like hand slicing and chopping. It got the total number down six points through additional efforts, including looking at every contract.
Newk’s was able to keep 97 of its 120 locations open throughout COVID. Today, there are 109 on line. And while “eight to nine” might remain shuttered—locations that were mostly struggling before the crisis—Clock says Newk’s feels fortunate to be where it is.
Selling toilet paper and other essentials helped keep the lights on at roughly 80 percent of its system as the chain figured out where to go next. “Newk’s Pantry” offered groceries from Grab & Go coolers available through curbside and delivery. Guests picked up staples, like paper goods, breads, and produce, and could also choose from a variety of meal-kit offerings to make Newk’s dishes at home. Things like a Soup & Sandwich Kit, Family Lunch Essentials, Build Your Own Pizza Kit, and Mac & Cheese Bar Family Meal Kit.