What is the secret ingredient that makes one restaurant concept maintain the momentum necessary to fuel growth, while others stutter?
It’s a question that is continually analyzed and often the subject of panel discussions at industry events. Possibly the best way to solve the mystery is to learn from the example of those who have captured that lighting in a bottle “It” factor with their brand.
Newk’s Eatery is one concept that has pieced together the puzzle of attracting franchisees on a strategic, yet accelerated growth plan. The fast-casual chain experienced double-digit revenue growth last year as it expanded into the West and Midwest.
In 2017, the Jackson, Mississippi-based brand expanded into 10 new markets and added more than 50 new franchise unit commitments, ending the year with more than 120 restaurants. In fact, it was a busy year-end for Newk’s as four current franchisees signed development deals and four restaurants opened in Georgia. Two are expected to debut in the first quarter.
“2018 is set up very nicely for us to be our best year yet,” Newk’s Chief Development Officer Chris Cheek told Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine. “We're on track to open 22 to 24 this year. Our growth is accelerated by franchisees' excitement for the brand that provides them with an attractive return on investment."
Cheek said a number of factors are propeling the brand including a transparency exemplified by the open kitchen format that is a hallmark of the concept.
"Having an open, real scratch kitchen provides authenticity. It's 'The Stage' guests see when they walk in the door. It matches our over-the-top hospitality."
Newk’s executives also credit a committment to innovation for the franchise surge. For example, last year the brand rolled out a new construction process that saves franchisees up to $100,000 on new builds. And in 2018, it will expand its to-go menu, with a new “Newk’s Express Market” to support increasing customer demand for off-premise dining.
When it comes to what franchisees they look to partner with, Cheek said those with multi-unit experience who understand the neeed to get in and care for people as well with financial wherewithal rise to the top of the pile.
The franchisees with expanded development agreements are:
- Paul Williams, an Atlanta-based franchisee who opened his first Newk’s this month in Smyrna, Georgia. He expanded his territory to include Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tennessee. He plans to open a total of six locations in northern Atlanta and four in Tennessee.
- NELA Dining, led by Rebecca Fuller, which currently owns and operates three Newk’s eateries in Monroe and Ruston, Louisiana. The company has committed to open four locations in Naples, Florida, a new market for Newk's.
- Jay Medley, who committed to open four additional locations in Greater Atlanta. He currently owns and operates two area locations, with a third opening this month in Canton.
- Missy Moon, who is also expanding in Greater Atlanta. She currently owns and operates two restaurants and now plans to open two additional restaurants.
Founded in 2004, Newk's currently operates and franchises more than 115 units in 15 states.
"The Newk’s Eatery concept has been developed and refined to meet the needs of consumers and franchise operators alike, truly carving out a unique point of difference,” said Newk's CEO and co-founder Chris Newcomb.