What is in this article?:
- Restaurant brands improve with franchisee input
- New food from the field
Restaurant chains like Wing Zone and Charley's Grilled Subs are benefiting from useful ideas from franchisees.
Restaurants have built their brands by exporting their culinary and operations systems to franchisees, but several chains said they have moved their businesses forward by reversing that process and adopting ideas and best practices from their franchisees.
Atlanta-based Wing Zone, for example, has cut the preparation time for its signature wings from about 15 minutes down to between 3 minutes and 4 minutes, and the whole innovation started in early 2011 when the brand began a partnership with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, or AAFES. In order to execute the Wing Zone brand at its military base accounts, AAFES needed to drastically improve speed of service.
“When we signed on with AAFES, they said they loved the Wing Zone brand and the product, but they needed a way to put out the wings in less than two minutes,” chief executive Matt Friedman said. “We had to work closely with them on some new equipment development to fully cook the product and hold it.”
The 79-unit chain gained more than a fast-growing franchise partner in AAFES after speeding up service, Friedman added. The new operations process will allow Wing Zone to diversify its growth with more nontraditional units, including more military accounts through AAFES and drive-thrus.
Currently, there are eight AAFES locations and eight international locations, but Wing Zone will increase that mix in future years, Friedman said. About 60 percent of new locations next year will be international or in nontraditional formats like military bases, airports and college campuses, all of which require the faster prep process.
“This really changed our business model,” Friedman said. “People love wings, but if you don’t have 15 minutes to wait for an order, we’re going to lose that sale. Now we’re competitive with some quick-service and fast-casual as it relates to speed. If we’d never worked with AAFES, this model wouldn’t have been developed — at least not yet.”