Allen said another key sales opportunity was focusing on metrics that matter. For example, she noted many restaurants give credence to guest satisfaction scores, but she’s found there isn’t much correlation between those scores and sales levels. However, speed of service certainly does, and Checkers is targeting that with a redesigned kitchen.
Currently, Checkers’ kitchen design requires employees to walk 1.5 miles each hour. The brand is aiming to change that with equipment improvements, balanced productivity, and simplified steps. More specifically, new kitchens will include holding equipment that keeps products hotter with longer hold times, fry stations and grill positions with better capacity, and the removal of final cooking processes from most fried products.
“We started in 1985, and some of our kitchen equipment probably hasn’t been updated since then,” Allen said. “… A lot of the equipment is outdated. It’s hard to use, it’s hard to learn, and it’s hard to deliver a consistent guest experience. So we have a new kitchen that’s in test. It’s doing really well. It’s capable of improving the food, the taste of the food, the temperature of the food, the speed, accuracy, and provide a better employee experience.”
The reimagined kitchen and dedicated e-commerce lane are pillars of Checkers’ next stage of growth, which arrives with an updated contemporary store design. Franchisees are interested in the momentum. In 2020, the brand added 40 new franchisees and more than 70 locations to the pipeline.
To aid expansion, Checkers recently announced a $20 million investment from Oak Hill Capital. Checkers consists of 572 franchises and 264 company-run stores across 35 states and Washington, D.C. Allen said no market is saturated and Checkers has 3x white space in current areas.
She believes the brand will attract more operators because of its unique value proposition: a smaller footprint, affordable modular building, and resilient operating model featuring a closed kitchen, double drive-thru, and e-commerce lane.
“All in all, 2020 was a great year,” Allen said. “We believe there are even better years ahead. We have a great team in place. We have a strong rejuvenation plan that’s well underway. And what I’ve experienced is a wonderful, resilient, hardworking organization that can just get stuff done.”