Blog: Going To Freshen Up?
Truth be told: I’m penning this piece from a local Panera.
It’s one of the chains that I—and so many others—can actually park it with coffee and a laptop and productively work for a couple hours.
When customers feel comfortable, they tend to stay longer and spend more. La Plata, Md.-based Dash In knows that well and recently spent about $75,000 to $100,000 to install new fixtures in 65 stores in Delaware, Virginia and Maryland. About five years ago, Dash In executives began considering the new look to rejuvenate outdated store formats—shifting from metal to wood/millwork interior designs and fixtures. In the end, the new look made some customers think like me. It was more like walking into a Panera Bread than it was a c-store.
Store refreshes have less to do with what the customer sees and more to do with the things they don’t. Recently, Champaign, Ill.-based Jimmy John’s did a sweep of franchised stores that were underperforming and made adjustments. In this case, the culprit was the back-room operations.
Jimmy John Liautaud, the founder of the sandwich chain bearing his name, went to all franchised stores in the network to identify the gaps. Liautaud told the Chicago Tribune that, in Jimmy John’s case, making upgrades meant: “You go inside, pull all the equipment, pull it away from the walls, you scrub the walls, paint, patch and fix or do whatever has to be done.”
Liautaud continued: “You push everything back against the walls, you blow out the compressors, you replace your disposables and any of your cutting boards and whatever isn't good, you fix your refrigerators, you sharpen your blades, and you get back to business. And that's pure hard work. And doing it 70 times is really hard.”
Sometimes these efforts mean thinking outside the box. Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Red Robin did it recently when it split its restaurant prototypes into three distinct sections to serve different clientele. It revamped one big dining space into three—a dining room for families, a bar area for the adult crowd, and a modern lounge for teens and young adults.
The lounge has partitions that act as a noise barrier while also letting diners see action in other parts of the restaurant. Red Robin, known for its premium burgers, hopes these alterations will give it a better shot at winning the millennial share of stomach, while maintaining its allegiance with older generations, which tend to be the industry's most loyal patrons.
Be it your single store, corporate chain or franchise, staying one step ahead of the competition can be done with traditional decisions, such as product mix tweaks and a menu overhaul. Sometimes, a host of other techniques can just as easily win over that ambivalent customer.