In order to get over the hurdle of finding the right real estate in the best locations, East Coast Wings & Grill has created two restaurant designs beyond its casual-dining mainstay: a university model and a smaller quick-service model.

“We can fit 80 percent of what we do into a smaller box,” said Daniel Collins, senior vice president of brand management at the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company.

“It’s a lower investment than our full-service restaurants, and it can go into more spaces,” he said of the smaller-scale units. “We don’t need as much land to build them.”

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Those benefits mean that franchisees are poised — and willing — to open more units, he said. Franchisee growth, Collins said, is a key initiative at East Coast Wings & Grill. The most recent sign-on was a franchise development agreement in Knoxville, Tenn., which will consist of opening at least five area restaurants and up to 50 more locations during the next seven years in surrounding states.

“The main goal of having different store designs is to have the most profitable restaurant possible,” Collins said. “We want to fit the right franchisee with the right type of restaurant.”

It also allows for some flexibility in initial investment pricing. East Coast Wings & Grill units cost between $245,000 and $873,000 to open, the company said in a statement.

The quick-service model, of which there are two, is 1,700–2,500 square feet. “Initially it was thought of as a kind of fill-in for markets that were smaller and didn’t have the retail space availability,” Collins said.

Standard casual-dining units, he said, are about 4,000 square feet. There are 22 casual-dining East Coast Wings & Grill units currently in operation.

When the demographic studies suggest that a full-service restaurant is the best fit for a certain area, then that is the first choice for development, Collins said. But when a restaurant is in an urban area with high rent, such as New York City, the smaller version makes more sense because it saves money on real estate costs.

The university store design, he said, needs to offer delivery and accept the college’s meal card. “It only makes sense to capitalize on the student population,” Collins said.

Those models, he said, should be located within one mile of a college campus. The first and only university-style East Coast Wings & Grill location was opened at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and it was the company’s top unit in terms of sales — until the students went home for the summer.

Two more university-style East Coast Wings & Grill units, which are about 2,500 square feet each, are in development, Collins said.

East Coast Wings & Grill has 25 locations with 104 more units in development, Collins said. On July 1, the company reported its 38th consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth.

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