A 7-year-old unit in Woodbury, Minnesota, had a nearly 70 percent increase in systemwide sales. The current franchisee bought the store a couple of years ago, cleaned it up, and pumped money into marketing and labor—all in an effort to increase the level of service and quality of product.
Conlin has pretty good insight on the store’s performance because the sales rep of the ice cream company that Wayback uses for its milkshakes lives near the store. The sales rep sent pictures of the Wayback bags, burgers, and milkshakes on his kitchen table, and then eventually showed photos of his family sitting in the dining room.
“It's always a nice story, and he always says great things when he goes there about the food, the friendliness, and the service that he gets,” Conlin says. “It's a 7-year-old restaurant that hasn't been remodeled yet. That's the next step—to get that restaurant remodeled and keep that increase going.”
Wayback’s remodeling initiative began prior to COVID, when the chain wanted to update its 10-year-old design that consists of red barn boards, beige colored walls, old lighting, and not the best seating. To begin the ideation process, a design company immersed itself into Wayback’s culture and gathered feedback on the chain’s identity. The goal was to create a space that kept nostalgia, but ushered in a modern era.
The biggest change is the positioning of the grill and POS system. In the old design, the grill and work stations are directly behind the POS counter, which presents issues for both employees and customers. The configuration creates a bottleneck effect, and employees who work behind the counter track smells whenever they bring food to customers dining inside.
“So if I'm sitting in there for half an hour eating my lunch or eating my dinner and I walked back out to my car, I'm going to smell like a burger and fries,” Conlin says. “And so we wanted to do something to lessen that effect.”
In the new design, the kitchen is behind a glass wall with a big pass-through window, which has prevented smells from getting trapped in clothing. In addition to the operational fix, the upgraded design comprises banquettes and a couch, a flag made up of Delaware license plates, a special Wayback clock, and a curved milkshake station with low, red leather stools.
Twelve remodels have been completed so far. In the backend of 2020, those particular stores saw sales grow 39 percent or better year-over-year. One remodeled unit in East Windsor, Connecticut, lifted 68.7 percent. Another 14 are in the process of gathering pictures and measurements in preparation of the remodel. Conlin says Wayback should have another 20 to 30 franchises signed this year to do the new design.
Wayback initially built a couple overseas with its international partners. The first domestic remodeled store came in Texas, with a franchisee who now has one store with the new design and another with the old design. When Conlin visited the store, he confirmed with the operator that the new design was doing everything Wayback had hoped.
“She said, ‘I love the new design. I hope they could build everything this way going forward,’” Conlin says. “And she didn't think that she would do the kind of business that she's doing in her new design store with the old design—not operationally, just more aesthetics, she said, because she thought it was more upscale than the old design.”