This new strategy will allow franchisees to capitalize on the resources under fresh ownership as well. Bojangles’ has already scaled back on the opening of company stores and will focus on expanding franchised locations. And there's a reenergized design direction to boot.
“We’ve already dialed back our company growth,” Hopson says. “We were opening 28–30 stores a year and we’re going to open much less than that going forward on the company side. We’re going to rely on franchisees to grow.”
Hopson believes franchise locations perform so well because the operators live in the community, know the people, and participate in local events. At its core, Bojangles’ is a community-forward, almost cult-like brand in the markets it serves. “Franchisees in pretty much any and every brand you talk to outperform the company. They live there and it’s hometown for them,” he says.
Bojangles’ reported total Q2 revenues of $140.5 million, up 2.7 percent from $136.8 million in the prior-year period. Same-store sales declined 0.2 percent systemwide, with company-run comps dropping 0.8 percent and franchised units 0.1 percent. This shift in strategy is slowing the growth rate. From 2016–2017, Bojangles’ added 48 units. It was 54 the year earlier, and 40 the year before that. For fiscal 2018, the company said earlier it expects to open just 18–22 systemwide restaurants, down from its previous expectation of 30–40 units. And of those, only six to eight will be company-run.
Hopson adds, “We think the best strategy long term is to really find great franchisees that are within are system and want to grow, and franchisees from other systems.”
With a hand in other restaurant brands already, Durational will help Bojangles’ locate new franchisees. Operators within Durational could be in the burger or pizza space and expand or diversify their portfolio by adding a chicken option like Bojangles’, Hopson says.
Affordability and a stake in real estate are some of the benefits that make the company attractive to potential franchisees, Hopson says. The chicken segment is also one of the most hyper-competitive in quick service, and established brands of this size and clout don’t come along very often. Franchisees can own their own land and buildings by partnering with Bojangles’—and that’s not always the case in the fast-food world.