Since becoming president of Schlotzsky’s, Kelly Roddy has successfully led the brand into a nationwide growth spurt.
As the President of Schlotzsky’s, Kelly Roddy is a believer in the comeback story.
You know the type--those movies that are centered around a situation where the tall rigid walls of what's impossible are shattered by the tenacious will and heart of the underdog who stands before it. But not all comeback stories revolve around down-on-their-luck football teams and washed-up boxers. Dozens of franchise brands have similar tales of their own. After all, what’s more inspiring than a brand reclaiming a top spot in the industry?
That story belongs to Schlotzsky’s President Kelly Roddy, who took over in 2007 and helped usher in a fresh start for the then-struggling chain. Since then, Schlotzsky’s has experienced nine years of growth after implementing a system-wide company rebrand. And they’re just getting started.
According to Roddy, research suggested that Schlotzsky’s was longer relevant to its customers, and the branded was in need of a new look. Schlotzsky’s is an established, well-known brand in each of the markets it serves, but Roddy quickly recognized that it was time for a change. And as a leader, it was his job to guide the brand through a make-over. But that also presented a new set of challenges. He couldn’t just lay out a new vision—he had to get buy-in from the entire franchise system, too.
“When I got into franchising, there seemed to be this disconnect between corporate and franchisee initiatives—they weren’t always aligned. And that boggled my mind—you have to all be on the same page otherwise it’ll be nearly impossible to get anything done,” Schlotzsky’s said. “My priority was creating a vision that everyone could get behind. The goal was to make the entire Schlotzsky’s brand experience better—for both consumers and franchisees. For me, that started with fostering a culture fueled by constant improvement. It meant building a culture of respect and a culture of fun. And it meant letting the entire system know that we’re a team who will actually do what we say we’re going to do. That really changed the game for the brand.”
Prior to joining Scholotzsky’s, he had experienced the strength in the brand’s product firsthand—he was a loyal guest long before he took over the president role. He even has the photo evidence to prove it. Seven years before he joined the brand’s executive team, he visited a local Schlotzsky’s with his family during a fundraising event. The franchisee had captured a photo of Roddy at the restaurant. And after he had been named the new president of the brand, that same franchisee mailed the photo directly to him.
“I knew the brand and I had always loved the brand. There’s this immense sense of loyalty amongst Schlotzsky’s guests. And I think a lot of that has to do with its unique product—the fresh, made-from-scratch sandwiches is the kind of thing that you can’t help but fall in love with. And it’s helped to set us apart from our competitors,” Roddy added. “It was important that we didn’t stray far from our roots. We had to stay true to the product that brought us success.”
It made sense, then, when Roddy announced that his priority was to revamp the look and feel of the Schlotzsky’s experience—not the food. This started with incorporating a design in each store that’s fresh and modern. Roddy also changed up the brand’s service model. After realizing that more and more customers were gravitating toward the fast casual experience, he decided to shift from a restaurant where guests picked up their meals, to one where servers brought orders straight to the tables.
It was a simple change that yielded huge results. Each restaurant’s culture got better. Service scores went up. Satisfaction numbers skyrocketed. And sales started to climb. Today, those efforts continue to have a noticeable impact, and Roddy has been able to take a once-struggling brand and nearly double its average unit volume.
That turnaround is one of Roddy’s proudest moments. And it was made possible by keeping his vision simple and realistic.
“For me, it was crucial to simply outline five key priorities and create a step-by-step guide for how we could accomplish these goals,” Roddy. “I told our franchisees that, realistically, this would take five years to completely roll out. So each year, we’d set a milestone. We’d communicate with each other to deliver on that promise. And when you do exactly what you say you’re going to do, you gain trust. And that gets everyone else on your team on your side, fighting for and backing your vision.”
The Schlotzsky’s that Roddy has helped to build over the years is one that’s now in full growth mode. With more than 350 franchised locations in the U.S. and counting, the company has attracted a record number of franchise inquiries in recent years due to its quality leadership, healthy sales to investment ratio and exceptional company performance.
Now that’s a comeback story.
“You only need about five seconds of courage to say what you think. Having that courage to try things that nobody else has tried is so vitally important,” Roddy said. “We all know that change isn’t easy. But when you have that audacity and integrity driving what you believe in, change becomes easier. This is an exciting time for Schlotzsky’s, and we wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for a shared vision that everyone believed was worth fighting for.”