Armario knew legacy franchisees would both question the decision and put it under a microscope. “When we tell our franchisees about the sales performance we’re getting, they’re very impressed,” he says, adding the brand’s largest operator, who directs 117 units, is going to open the Columbus, Ohio, market under the modernized look and system.
Bojangles invited him to the Sanford spot to see it in real-time and collect feedback. What he discovered goes back to Armario’s initial point. “The team members are happier, which translates to happy customers,” he says.
“I wish we could take credit, but I’ll credit the team … when we did have customers in Memphis ask about bone-in they would say, ‘listen, the chicken is so good we took the bone out for you.’ And I thought that was genius,” Armario adds.
It’s really an evolution drawn from a few, experience-focused pillars. One, as Armario hinted, involved a more consistent, enjoyable employee process—where the menu is easier to execute, the kitchen drops about 10 degrees (thanks to the induction tops). Secondly, he says, Bojangles “wanted to satisfy the boss,” or customer. Today’s guest wants an elevated experience if they’re leaving the house and spending more than they used to. This “takes the best of Bojangles and contemporizes it,” Armario says.
In addition, while it’s a streamlined lineup at its core, the menu opened Bojangles up throughout the day. Milkshakes, coffee, and even chicken fingers/sandwiches versus bone-in chicken, morphed these test locations into all-day affairs with a snacking lure. The Sanford restaurant sold more milkshakes on Memorial Day than it ever has.
Jeri Workman, a former 30-year Whataburger vet, is the “Operating Partner” of the Florida restaurant. Armario and management created this elevated position for company-operated restaurants to fuel Bojangles’ coming era. She was working as an area director in Bojangles’ Charlotte market running “five or six locations.” The company asked her to shift course and come lead one. Like the Texas Roadhouse visible from the restaurant’s drive-thru pickup point, the Operating Partner model gives the leader shares in the profit of the store. In turn and theory, the Partner will pour all their attention toward driving sales, customer satisfaction, and, naturally, profit. One unit (it has the potential to become two) at a time.
To say Workman is invested in her operation would be a canyon-sized understatement. Before it opened, she hosted classroom training sessions at a hotel meeting room. They talked culture, expectations, and why this Bojangles was going to be a harbinger of more to come (15 are planned for Central Florida after the brand previously exited in 2015). Workman says there are 45 people on her staff currently. Of those, 38 were there when the doors opened. All of management has stuck around.
Workman awards merits with small star pins she purchased on Amazon for “like 30 cents apiece,” she shares. One employee, Rosemary, has more than 40 stuck to a hat that’s fast running out of real estate.