Even after losing most of its dine-in business, Dekker says, the company hasn’t missed a beat. “We've completely pivoted. Our sales are better than they've ever been, and they were always good to begin with,” he says. “So we continue to grow our business without really any sort of inside service at all. Our delivery and our carryout, those numbers are off the charts, and we've replaced all of the dine-in business that we lost and then some.”
This month, Bonchon took another step with its off-premises investments by partnering with DoorDash to facilitate delivery through the brand’s website and app. The partnership leverages the DoorDash Drive white-label platform, and Dekker says it enhances the guest experience while also reducing the cost for both the customer and the franchise partner.
Dekker says there are limits to the brand’s evolution. Drive thrus and ghost kitchens likely won’t be a part of its future. And Dekker has a word of caution to those brands jumping so wholeheartedly into those fields. For drive thrus, he reminds that there are complexities that make it hard to maintain quality, and becoming a drive-thru brand means competing more directly with some of the industry’s drive-thru titans. As for ghost kitchens, Dekker suggests there is a real advantage to bricks and mortar.
“I don't think [ghost kitchens are] a bad idea, but I also think that there's something about building brand equity before you make that move,” he says. “And then customers know you, understand you, appreciate you, and then they stop caring about where [their food] comes from.”
Beyond service changes, Bonchon is also tweaking its menu, interior design, and branding as it pivots to the new store prototype and plans to expand into new markets. The brand even moved its corporate headquarters from New York City to Dallas. All of the changes reflect a “middling of the brand,” Dekker says, which is as much about positioning more to the mainstream consumer as it is about geographically expanding inward from the coasts.
“We'll see how that all shakes out in the end,” he says, “but I think that everybody's got to find their happy medium.”
For more on how Bonchon is embracing a more fast-casual mindset, stream the interview with CEO Flynn Dekker at the top of this page.