Buffets, Inc., parent company of Old Country Buffet, Hometown Buffet, Country Buffet, Ryan’s, and Fire Mountain restaurants, which are popular for their family dining experience, reported sales up 1.7 percent for the quarter ending April 3, 2013, the best year-over-year quarterly comparable sales performance in seven years.
Company officials attribute the improvement to the fast-track implementation of its turnaround blueprint entitled the “Plan to Win” that was launched last July.
Anthony Wedo, brought into the chain last year as CEO to lead the turnaround, says, "The third quarter's positive results are due to a renewed focus on the guest. We have focused on everything from improved operations to renovated facilities and new menu offerings in order to place the guest front and center in all that we do.”
Wedo says, as a result of debt restructuring, the company is now virtually debt free, thereby allowing it to reinvest in the brands’ menu, facilities, and consumer programs.
"Our positive results, especially when compared to significantly negative results across the industry, are proof that our guest-first strategy works and that we are starting to pick up momentum," he says.
Jason Abelkop, chief marketing officer for Buffets, Inc., attributed the success to specific guest-centered innovations rolled out within the year.
Specifically, the company has introduced Fresh For You “action” stations featuring Mongolian Stir Fry, the “Real Favorites Menu” delivering more of what guests want, and the very popular Thursday Family Nights.
“The launch of Mongolian Stir Fry has improved our freshness, quality, and ‘intent to visit’ ratings because consumers are giving us high marks for creating customized meals, made just for them,” Abelkop says. “The Real Favorites Menu is all about focusing on what our guests love. Since we use small-batch cooking, we can ensure serving fresh, delicious food consistently. As an added benefit to our business model, our Favorites Menu has streamlined our operating platform, which has allowed for consolidated purchasing power, as well.”
Abelkop says Thursday Family Nights, supported by branded partnerships with popular Scholastic Media children’s properties Clifford, Word Girl, and 39 Clues, have generated significant double-digit sales and transactional growth for the brands.
“We have transformed our menu to showcase our product freshness and variety,” he says. “Young families are our core demographic, and as we strengthen our connection with them, the system benefits.”