Group dining can often turn awkward when the check arrives. Even with conveniences such as Venmo, the most pleasant dinners can become tense when it comes time to divvy up the bill, especially when restaurants are only willing to help so much in the separate checks department.
Not at Cheba Hut.
The sandwich chain welcomes group diners with open arms and does everything it can to accommodate them. This is part of its brand and its message to customers. More than anything, Cheba Hut wants to provide a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere where no one needs to stress about anything.
“There are two people, usually two vocal people, who drive group-dining decisions,” Cheba Hut Chief Relationship Officer Seth Larsen said. “One is the people with dietary restrictions, and the other is the people who want to drink alcohol. Cheba Hut can cater to both. We’re just a good option for groups of people. We take hospitality very seriously, and we want to provide excellent customer service. We started doing the fast-casual thing before that was even was a buzzword.”
Cheba Hut makes it simple for groups of diners to pay for their orders, whether that’s in the restaurant or through an online order.
“Our ordering app makes it easy to split tickets and split costs around the restaurant,” Larsen said. “Other restaurants make such a big deal about that, but to us it’s just part of hospitality, so of course we split checks. We want people to feel comfortable.”
Another way in which Cheba Hut caters to group diners is by offering a variety of seating options, including a communal table, bar seats and high top seats. These different seating options make a huge difference for the brand’s diners, Larsen said.
“You have to have room for groups,” he said.
Cheba Hut has also paid attention to the way people eat. He noted that group dining customers, for example, often like to split appetizers. To that end, the brand offers many shareable menu items, such as its Hummus Platter, Loaded Not’chos and Pretzel Nuggets.
“People eat differently now,” Larsen said. “The customer that comes now is different than a decade ago. We love it when people come in and order a 12-inch sandwich, chips and a drink, but a lot of people don’t eat that way now and we recognize that. We don’t care how people spend money in our locations, we just care that they do - and that they do it often. Our menu is set up for ease-of-use for customers because of our wide variety of options.”
Another aspect of Cheba Hut that sets it apart from the competition is that the brand’s restaurants have bars.
“We do 40 percent or more of our sales after 4 p.m., so we can really drive nighttime and dinner sales on our sandwich concept, so that’s really something that sets us apart,” Larsen said. “Lunches are always going to be the bread and butter but we can also drive significant sales at night. We’re a great spot for happy hour, for example, which typically eludes the fast-casual sector.”
Even though bar sales account for only approximately 20 percent of overall restaurant sales, the bar is still a significant component of what the brand does, Larsen said.
“We’ll always be a sandwich shop before being a bar, but the good thing about it is we’ve positioned ourselves as a place to go before you go,” Larsen said. “We know that our restaurants, for most people, aren’t going to be the last place they go to. Customers can have food and a beer or a cocktail or a shot and then move on to their next thing, and because we offer a lot of value they can do this at a fraction of what it would cost them at another restaurant.”
Larsen noted that the brand’s price point can be also be a huge draw for families.
“There is a time and place for high-end dinners, but it’s just not something you do on a regular basis,” Larsen said. “So providing that value and options and price points for people in a group atmosphere is good for everyone.”
Larsen noted that diners who typically go to a sandwich chain in a group do not intend to stick around for very long. This goes against everything Cheba Hut stands for, as the sandwich brand wants its customers to enjoy the atmosphere. Other sandwich brands are only trying to get one or two visits per month from their core customer, and Cheba Hut wants more than that, Larsen said.
“We want people to stay a little bit longer,” he said. “We are a higher price than a traditional sandwich shop. We want people to be comfortable and come more frequently and feel good about being here.”
Whether customers come in groups or by themselves, Cheba Hut is eager to provide an excellent service.
“We’ve never done traditional marketing,” Larsen said. “We’re big on word of mouth and providing a certain price and excellent service and a kickass atmosphere. That’s how you build a loyal following.”
Cheba Hut’s group diners are a diverse lot. Indeed, anyone who thinks Cheba Hut is merely a stoner brand that only attracts young people in the 18 to 25 age range would be surprised to see a far more diverse clientele.
“We operate in downtown locations and suburbia,” Larsen said. “We love families. We love our young and older professionals. Blue-collar professionals are our bread and butter. It doesn’t matter if you’re a soccer mom or a stoner. We’re an inclusive brand and we want everyone to feel comfortable. That’s the mentality you create when you’re focused on food and service first and theme second. We want to take care of people. That’s on the forefront of our minds.”
For more information on Cheba Hut Franchising visit http://franchise.chebahut.com/.