Checkers & Rally’s is on a roll: 2021 was the company’s best on record, with 90 new franchise commitments to show for it. In the first quarter of 2022 alone, the iconic quick-service brand has added 43 new commitments and plans to open 60 new stores in 2022.
While other brands have been trying to acclimate to the off-premises model that has become so ubiquitous in the quick-service industry, Checkers & Rally’s has always been a pioneer in the space. The brand lays claim to being the first to implement the double drive-thru model.
At the beginning of 2022, Checkers & Rally’s announced its latest drive-thru innovation: AI-driven automated voice-ordering. With the backdrop of the labor crisis, the move comes at a pivotal time for franchisees, and positions Checkers & Rally’s as the first national brand to enable deployment of the technology across its entire footprint.
The rollout comes after a beta test at 50-plus corporately-owned locations last year revealed some eye-popping numbers: Checkers & Rally’s reports that order accuracy shot up to 98 percent, with employees rarely having to intervene during the ordering process. Built to recognize dozens of different accents, the automated voice ordering is just another example of the brand’s dedication to creating a frictionless experience for guests and franchisees alike.
“The automated voice ordering is a really nice thing for franchisees to have right now, because it takes the pressure off of their employees,” says Robert Bhagwandat, senior director of franchising development at Checkers & Rally's. “We have found that it saves up to 9 hours of labor per day—that’s quite a bit of money saved when you calculate it for an entire year. Now employees can work more efficiently and operators don’t have to worry about employees racking up overtime.”
Bhagwandat says the voice ordering system is just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to tech-forward drive-thru innovation. It’s also yet another example of the way the franchisor is always looking to pad AUVs and give franchisees a great return on their investment. The ROI is enhanced by a relatively low barrier of entry, with an average new store buildout costing $1.3 million. When you compare that to competitors of Checkers & Rally’s, the brand’s new stores can often cost almost half as much. Checkers & Rally’s also has a menu that outdoes its competitors in terms of variety, Bhagwandat says, with a little something for everyone—from burgers, to chicken sandwiches, to shakes and other frozen desserts.
“People love to focus on our food, and they should—it’s fun food, and people love it,” Bhagwandat says. “But I think it’s our unique drive-thru model, as well as our economic model that really separates us from the competition. The cost of entry is considerably less, and yet our sales are strong. That creates a strong ROI and it means you can open more and more stores, which speaks to our strong growth engine.”
Another unique aspect of the brand is that 100 percent of its 850-plus units are located in the U.S. While other brands are focusing on developing an international footprint, Checkers & Rally’s believes it has a formula to grow in a huge way in the U.S., with plenty of white space to fill in. The brand is looking for “hard-working franchisees” who possess “a knowledge and respect for the industry.” Bhagwandat stresses that for him and the brand, it comes down to the people.
“One of the driving factors for people electing to franchise with us is the accessibility of the people here,” Bhagwandat says. “In my past life I worked for a Fortune 500 company in senior management. During my tenure there, I shook the CEO’s hand maybe once. Whereas at Checkers & Rally’s, if a franchisee picks up the phone and calls the CEO or the COO, they’d have a chance to have a conversation with those people. That’s unique in this industry. There aren’t many concepts where franchisees have access to the c-suite that easily.”
For more on franchising with Checkers & Rally’s, visit the company’s website.