Shoney’s will unveil its latest prototype Thursday in Lawrenceville, Ga., the family-dining chain’s first restaurant located in a mall and its first to feature a full bar and attached Shoney’s On The Go quick-service dining option.

David Davoudpour, chairman and chief executive of parent Shoney’s North America Corp., said the new Sugarloaf Mills mall location also reflects upgrades in the brand’s menu and serviceware.

“I’m really wanting to get back to the core value of the brand, and that is the food,” Davoudpour told Nation’s Restaurant News Tuesday.

Popular menu items include Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Dixie Tater Chips, Hand-Breaded Chicken Strips, Black Angus beef, Grilled Wild-Caught Pacific Salmon and fresh side dishes like corn and butter beans.

“The name is still Shoney’s, but in many ways it could be a new concept by itself,” Davoudpour noted.

A large American flag is prominently displayed on the interior wallsMany family-dining brands in Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2013 Second 100 census saw sales decline. In that segment, Shoney’s fell from the No. 1 spot to second place in terms of aggregate sales. The census estimated Shoney’s U.S. systemwide sales fell 7.5 percent in the fiscal year ended October 2012, to $308 million from $333 million in the prior-year period.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Shoney’s North America Corp. was acquired in 2007 by Royal Hospitality Corp., which Davoudpour founded. Royal Hospitality is an affiliate of Atlanta-based Royal Capital Corp., where Davoudpour is chairman and chief executive.

At the time of the acquisition, Shoney’s owned or franchised 282 restaurants in 18 states. The company currently has about 165 units in 16 states.

Davoudpour discussed the new prototype with Nation’s Restaurant News.

What was the biggest problem Shoney’s faced?

Shoney’s did not deliver on what consumers were looking for. They were looking to have a glass of wine and a beer. Our society has changed. Most of our restaurants did not have espresso or cappuccino. Things have changed. We have to stay with our consumer base.

The salad bar and short buffet area in the Shoney’s unitHow do a standard Shoney’s restaurant and the mall location differ?

Sizewise, a typical Shoney’s is 7,000 square feet. This is 3,500 square feet with about 107-plus seats. That’s 2,800 for the Shoney’s itself with the Shoney’s On The Go taken out.

Shoney’s On The Go is newer.

It’s a whole brand by itself. It’s separate. It’s next to the store. It’s an accompaniment to a big-box Shoney’s. It was intended to be a complement to the big box. We have one other one in North Georgia, but this is the first one next to big-box Shoney’s. The other one is a test location.

Is food offered at the full-service bar?

Absolutely. At this bar we have 16 seats, and we do serve food there. We also have a community table that seats 12. We have a bar at the big-box Shoney’s in Panama City Beach, [Fla.], which is a big-box partnership in a lifestyle center.

How is the menu priced?

About 90 percent of our menu is under $10. Our steaks are higher priced.

What are you most excited about with this unit?

The quality and the freshness of the food. Frozen food is going the way of the past for this brand.

And the strength of the brand?

It’s an iconic brand that will not go away. I looked at it and said, ‘This is a diamond in the rough.’ We have to have brand standards, serving consistently good food at great value with friendly service. These are non-negotiable and vital to the future success of Shoney’s. That’s how the brand was in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

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