Coming off its first month of increased guest counts in almost three years—and a year that included an overhaul of its menu options—Fazoli’s announced that it is opening two new prototypes in the first quarter of 2010.

The new models, which are set to open in St. Louis and Dayton, Ohio, are in-line prototypes with many changes from the traditional stand-alone Fazoli’s model.

“We wanted to go with an in-line location [because] we feel pretty strong that we can do well in that area,” says Carl Howard, president and CEO of Fazoli’s. “It will not have a drive thru, we will focus on curbside carry out and be aggressive in that area.”

The new prototypes are between 2,100 and 2,300 square feet, as opposed to the 2,900–3,400 square feet of the previous model. While construction of the old model was traditionally between $750,000 and $900,000, Howard says the in-line prototype can be built for less than $500,000.

Howard, who was named president and CEO of Fazoli’s in June of 2008, says he knows the brand can do similar volumes to what it is used to out of a smaller space because brands like Noodles & Co. and Qdoba are already doing it.

“We know the potential is there, we’ve just got to go out and prove the model,” he says.

It’s been three years since Fazoli’s opened a new unit, and Howard believes the new prototypes are the first step toward jump-starting franchise development.

“The inside [of the old model] is dated, it never really gave you a feel that you were in an Italian or a modern location,” he says. “It just needs a lift.”

Franchisees can also refashion their old Fazoli’s stand-alone units according to the model facelift, and the first such unit will open in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Howard says the franchisees are excited to potentially incorporate the brand’s new look.

“This is something that they’re aware of and they’re optimistic and hopeful that this is going to go well because they want to see the company grow and they want to see new franchisees come in,” he says. “They want it to work because they’re looking for something to inject in their business to give it some additional sales and prove the life of their business.”

Along with the store prototypes, Fazoli’s will also launch new menu options in 2010, including family meals and a pizza line. The new Dayton prototype will also test enhanced table service, including meal delivery and upgraded silverware.

It’s all part of the Fazoli’s makeover, Howard says, which should push the brand into successful new territories.

“If this works, you’ll see us grow rapidly because Sun Capital, who I’m very fortunate to have them as our equity partner, wants to grow the brand and they believe in the brand,” Howard says. “We’ve just got to prove a model that works. When we do that I have an economic engine behind us needed to grow the brand.”

By Sam Oches

Design, News, Fazoli's