As 2009 comes to a close and many quick serves reflect on a year of budget cutting and downsizing, at least one chain can look back on a positive year of growth: Checkers.
The double-drive-thru concept opened approximately 40 units in 2009, nearly doubling its growth from 2008.
“The openings in 2009 were some of the most challenging in our history due to the current economic climate,” Rick Silva, CEO of Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc., said in a statement. “Yet the strength of our product, business model, innovative design, and franchisee network are the reasons we’ve succeeded while others may have struggled.”
According to Lynette McKee, chief development officer of the 820-plus-unit Checkers, one of the big reasons Checkers fared so well in 2009 is that it grew mostly with existing franchisees in markets where the brand had already established roots.
“Most of our growth this year … probably 65 percent, has been with existing franchisees,” McKee says. “Unit economics has worked very well for them, and that’s a key factor for franchisees wanting to grow.”
McKee says that existing franchisees are a great way to expand a brand because they’ve established market presence and are already familiar with the business model.
“It’s not something new to them, they already know what they’re getting into,” she says. “They’re getting you to grow in their markets where they already have a presence.”
Another method of expansion for the chain has been nontraditional venues, which McKee says will continue to drive growth into 2010.
“It’s beginning to benefit the brand more and more,” she says of nontraditional growth. Checkers has established a presence in airports and colleges, McKee says, and has also experienced significant success with two units on the Florida turnpike.
“We don’t have a lot of nontraditional venues out there today, but we are working to have a percentage of our growth each year to be in nontraditional, particularly in the markets where we already have a presence,” she says.
So while other brands chalk 2009 up as being mostly a loss, Checkers considers the year to be mostly one of optimism, McKee says.
“I don’t know that there’s really any down point for us,” she says. “We’re looking to probably double our growth again next year. I know that the franchisees have been very happy, and we have good company restaurants that are operating very well.”
“I think the brand as a whole, we’re very pleased with what the year has brought us.”
By Sam Oches