Charleys Philly Steaks added 63 new locations in 2021 and has plans to add up to 200 more in 2022.  Significant investments for growth were made in 2021 to put the brand on a path towards 1000 locations by the end of 2023.  

“2021 was a milestone year for Charleys Philly Steaks and really set the foundation for the future of the brand,” explains Charleys Philly Steaks Chief Marketing Officer, Brian Hipsher. “Every department in the company has made significant improvements and investments to prepare for the rapid growth already underway.  But it’s not just about growth in store count, it’s also about revitalizing the brand itself.  We’ve taken a guest centric approach to making everything better, from new menu items we introduce, to supportive technologies like loyalty programs, to how we demonstrate overflowing care to our guests with every interaction.  It’s exciting to see how much has been accomplished in such a short span of time!” 


In 2021, Charleys looked for menu inspiration from their guests and from the epicenter of cheesesteaks- Philadelphia. Listening to fans and sampling over 2o cheesesteaks at 11 of the best local Philadelphia cheesesteak restaurants led to the launch of the Old School Cheesesteak and Fries—Charleys’ take on the classic cheesesteak. These items quickly became the highest selling limited time menu offering for the brand. “The Old School Cheesesteak LTO has paved the way for an ongoing LTO strategy which requires new food items that absolutely wow our guests.  It is just the beginning of more menu innovations and improvements underway to live up to our promise of having the #1 cheesesteak in the world,” says Hipsher. 

The brand recently launched an ice cream and shake category available in its rapidly growing non-mall locations. Guests can enjoy oversized ice cream cones, shakes, and sundaes with Oreo cookies, chocolate, and real fruit toppings.

Charleys also revamped their catering program, introducing single-serve Meal Boxes, along with party favorites like Philly Trays and Wing Packs. The catering offerings were simplified and made available for same day ordering online at the new and through ezCater.  


“Digital sales growth has been, and remains, one of our top priorities,” says Hipsher. “Making it easy for guests to order online, on whatever platform they choose, is key.  We have also discovered that brand awareness becomes much more important in the digital space.  We have spent a tremendous amount of energy sharpening our social media and digital marketing tactics with impressive improvements in reach and engagement geotargeted near our locations.  According to Technomic, our brand awareness increased by more than 30% in 2021.” 

As part of the revitalization of the brand, Charleys launched a new website that improved the integration with its loyalty program and online ordering platform, taking a “mobile first” approach to design. The new website also includes a fun SWAG shop and the ability to order digital gift cards.     

 The brand saw total digital sales increase from 20% of sales to close to 40% of sales for stores outside of malls. The addition of new third-party delivery partners, an improved website experience, and increasing the year-old loyalty fan base to over 750k members helped drive digital sales growth.   

To further improve the customer experience, Charleys is testing kiosks at stores and is planning to add a call center to make it easier for guests to quench their cheesesteak cravings.   


At the very center of Charleys revitalization and growth is its desire to enrich the lives of its guests, teammates, and communities. “We are all here to give a great experience and to help make our franchisees successful.  At Charleys we call this “Overflowing Care.  It’s the type of care that wells up from inside and simply can’t be contained.  We want our guests and teammates to feel special and loved, and it takes special kinds of people to make that happen.  We are improving our training programs and reward systems to continue a transformation process where this type of care and experience is extremely noticeable. It will be exciting to watch this unfold!” says Hipsher.   

Fast Casual, Franchising, Growth, News, Charley's