Last year, when Keith Cox visited the World Wrapps location, it had been 15 years since the founder and former CEO was involved with the brand. The time away let Cox see his former restaurant through “distant eyes.” What he saw was a chain that had not updated since it was sold in 2000.
World Wrapps was founded in 1995 as a fast casual restaurant before fast casual was an industry-wide concept. Because it offered high-quality dishes and ingredients at a low price point, the brand was aligned with fast food.
When Cox and Matt Blair, co-founder and company president, sold the chain to new leadership, World Wrapps boasted 24 stores. In the years that followed, the brand shrank to just four units that had not updated with the times.
When Cox visited the Corte Madera location in 2015, he saw that nothing had changed. The restaurant was decorated with the same primary-colored tiles from the 1990s, and the menu had not adapted to current industry demands. Instead, the food became more like traditional fast food over the years, sacrificing quality for cost.
But with the growing popularity of fast casual 2.0, Cox saw a chance to update the concept to what he calls, “World Wrapps 2.0.”
“I’m looking at the concept and thinking it’s stayed in the fast food lane and got closer to fast food,” Cox says. “So I look at it and think about how now you can charge a price point to do that quality of food we had started with in the original founding. I thought we could bring back the chef quality, serve it in bowls, wraps, and rolls.”
Cox called the then-current owner and decided to buy it back. Blair also returned to the chain, along with two early advisers, Eduardo Rallo and William Weisman. Also returning to World Wrapps was the company’s founding executive chef, Aaron Noveshen, who is now founder and president of The Culinary Edge, a restaurant-consulting firm. Noveshen worked with the team at the firm to redesign the World Wrapps menu for the modern era.
The menu was completely redesigned around the concept of global cuisine and what Cox calls “credible ethnic flavor combinations,” because the brand “goes deep into ethnic ingredients” from around the world. The new incarnation of World Wrapps centers on serving flavorful foods from around the world in one location, such as the Korean Barbecue Wrapp, Nori Roll, and the Tikka Masala Wrapp.
“We’ve got enough new novel items that people are exploring the menu, and it’s shifting the way they think about the menu,” Cox says, also noting that some menu classics, like the Thai Chicken, received updates.
The brand’s logo was also changed to resemble a passport stamp, and the key colors became gray and burnt sienna. The travel theme and logo colors are carried throughout the physical space, which is styled with a mix of concrete, steel, and wood elements.
The brand relaunched with the update to the Corte Madera location in late November and has already been met with enthusiasm from customers. Sales and transactions have doubled over pre-launch sales, Cox says.
“It was so much fun relaunching and creating a brand new concept playing off the old,” Cox says. “We are getting to innovate again and take something that is new and based on 21 years of experience and travels and really look at how to ground that into the concept. I think having the flavors of the world live under one roof takes a very specific concept to do that, and the wraps, bowls, and rolls, we’re able to do that in a successful way.”
The World Wrapps team plans to continue updating the chain’s other locations and to launch new ones in the upcoming year.
By Peggy Carouthers