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Once Quaker Steak got to Toledo to do consumer awareness surveys, stopping random people outside major shopping centers to ask how familiar they were with the brand, executives discovered that Quaker Steak had an 80-percent incidence of brand recognition. “I was shocked,” Longstreet said, adding that Quaker Steak has entered markets like Fargo, N.D., or Rapids City, S.D., where the brand’s recognition probably wouldn’t have topped 10 percent.

Now that the site selection process has played out through social media, Quaker Steak is back in complete control with its real estate team to determine the best type of unit prototype for the best parcel of land it can acquire in Toledo, Longstreet said. “Two of the things that have been challenging since day one for our brand are that the restaurants are really big and really expensive,” he said. “Our biggest challenge is keeping it small.”

However, Quaker Steak will have options. A new, smaller “Power Lube” prototype that opened in Medina, Ohio, in February is producing the same average sales volumes in 4,900 square feet as full-size locations, which can require up to 8,000 square feet in some locations, he said.

“We’re trying to build new restaurants that make money but also to try new things so that we’re not making franchisees experiment with their money,” Longstreet said. “That’s why most everything we’re doing are new prototypes.”

In all, the brand would be open to revisiting “I Want My Quaker Steak & Lube” in future years, even though it is getting steady commitments for new units from new and existing franchisees, Longstreet said.

“It did extremely well, and it blew the doors off our brand, because I think that’s how we are,” he said. “We really want to have the Lubies involved with everything. If we can’t come up with something else, then I’d want to go back to it. And maybe we look at a whole new model for expansion that is collaborative efforts with the Lubies. The more we can do that, the better off we’re likely to be.”

Quaker Steak operates in 20 states and one Canadian province.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN