Fazoli’s is enjoying big same-store sales gains at the end of 2011, and CEO and president Carl Howard plans to carry that success into 2012 with a number of hospitality enhancements and new expansion strategies.
The Italian quick-serve concept experienced a 6.6 percent increase in same-store sales in November, the best November since 1998. And Howard says the company is on pace to have double-digit same-store sales growth in December, potentially topping its all-time December high of 12.4 percent.
Barring an improbable collapse, December should turn out to be Fazoli’s 18th consecutive month of positive same-store results.
“I think we’re hitting on all [four] major cylinders of the value equation—product, service, environment, and price,” Howard says. “All four cylinders of our engine are now working really well.”
Howard joined Fazoli’s in 2008 and has been instrumental in revamping its operations, which has included refreshing its design, debuting new prototypes, adding new service touch points, and rolling out real plateware.
The company has also revised the majority of its menu, which now includes more customization, variety, and healthier options.
“We’ve finally got the menu,” Howard says. “We’ve been working on it since the day I got here, but we’ve finally got the menu to where it works and is really well accepted.”
To sustain growth through 2012, Howard says, Fazoli’s will undergo a “revolutionary” hospitality change so that it further resembles a casual-dining company.
“The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to retrain all of our hourly cashiers and drive-thru people like a waiter or waitress at a casual-dining restaurant. … We want to make sure that they’re menu experts, and then we’re also going to take them to a major hospitality initiative,” he says.
“The second thing is we’re taking the breadstick person out of the experience, and we’re putting a manager in that role as a front-of-the-house concierge. They’ll be doing manager visits, and you’ll be getting even more of a full-service experience.”
Fazoli’s has plans to open 10–12 new stores in 2012, including a mix of franchised, company-owned, and nontraditional locations.
Next year will also see the opening of the company’s first travel-center unit. Howard says travel centers and other petroleum-based locations represent a big window of opportunity for Fazoli’s because these locations are interested in food opportunities, but have not been successful at locking down major brands.
“[Bigger brands are] already saturated in most of these areas anyway,” Howard says. “But we’re really the best-in-class full-service option for them in most cases, and with the most flexibility, because we have the most real estate available.”
By Sam Oches