Zaxby’s unveiled its newest store design, an overhaul of the exterior and refresh of the interior that will debut in two corporate-owned locations in February.

Zach McLeroy, cofounder and CEO of Athens, Georgia–based Zaxby’s, says this is the third time the company has changed its design as it strives to set itself apart from other fast-casual operators.

“A lot of people have the philosophy, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’ and I don’t believe that philosophy, because I think you’re always trying to make your system better,” McLeroy says.

The new interior features a more open dining room with spacious seating and bright graphics, as well as a redesigned drink station. It also features an open kitchen design that allows for more storage capacity and new equipment options.

“The kitchen is basically the same square footage, but it’s got a better flow to it now operationally, and we think it will provide us more throughput,” McLeroy says. “It’s just a more efficient kitchen—easier on the operation, easier on the team members who work there.”

Perhaps the biggest change in the new design, however, is the exterior. The new design has what McLeroy calls a “farmhouse-style look,” with corrugated tin awnings, brick trimming, and a metal silo housing the drive thru.

“We wanted the whole thing to look completely different as much as we possible could, while maintaining the integrity of the structure of the Zaxby’s in the footprint we’re used to working in,” McLeroy says.

Though Zaxby’s introduced the new design to franchisees, McLeroy says it is not yet available to them. In fact, there are not yet plans for the new design beyond the two initial stores.

“We like to put our money where our mouth is, and that’s why these first two stores are corporate stores, because we’re not exactly sure, when it’s all said and done, what the costs are going to be,” he says.

“That’s really important to licensees, as well as us, to be as fiscally responsible when it comes to the investment cost, and at the same time trying to establish a more heightened or enhanced brand image.”

McLeroy says that once the new design is available to franchisees, it will help the company as it expands in and beyond the Southeast U.S.

“I think this could help with our expansion push because I think people are always looking for something that’s new, that’s creative, that’s edgy, that’s different than what you can get in the marketplace,” he says.

“It creates excitement. People like to be involved with things that are new, that are evolving, that are changing, so I think it could definitely enhance our efforts and our growth.”

By Sam Oches

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Design, Fast Casual, News, Zaxby's