You've seen it time and time again, an old logo and design for a QSR concept is displayed because the franchisee doesn't want to pay for the upgrades. But, the benefits of having a cohesive national brand image can help increase sales and improve how consumers view the overall company and product offerings.
Saladworks is a 30-year-old company and the nation's largest salad franchise with nearly 100 locations, but as one can imagine, opening locations over 30 years means a variety of logos, interior décor, and a varying overall look and feel for the brand. When Patrick Sugrue joined the company as the CEO last year, he took the mash-up of store designs into account and knew the only way possible to move the company forward was to bring in more consumers, provide consumers with a uniform look and feel, and to then open more franchises embracing the brand’s future.
To test the company’s new vision for the store, the corporate team partnered with a successful franchisee that embraces the brand’s vision through the three stores that he operates. Nish Patel did an overhaul of his location in Newtown, Pennsylvania. And to say that it was well received is an understatement. Through an increase in store traffic, including both new and repeat guests, Patel’s store saw consistent sales growth and now, more than 18 months after the remodel, the store is still seeing high double digit growth.
“People were flocking to the store with comments about the food, service and ambiance. They were commenting on things that we hadn’t even changed due to the halo effect of the overall look and feel,” said Jena Henderson, VP of Growth at Saladworks. “What they were taking away was that this design resonated with them. They were translating the comfortable atmosphere and upgraded interiors to the quality of the food even though we made no changes to the food quality. We’ve always offered top notch ingredients for our salads.”
But to ensure it wasn’t a fluke, the corporate team wanted to test the upgraded redesign theory at another store, so they redid the Andorra location in Philadelphia. This was a corporate location and would serve not only as an additional remodel test, but also as the basis for what would be required for the system. Since reopening, the store’s sales are up 10 percent. Patel chose to remodel a second location in Southampton, garnering a 16 percent increase in sales.
The decision to roll out the remodel to the entire Saladworks system was not one based on sales increases. The need for a consistent look and feel would act as the foundation for future menu innovation and technology changes. The brand needed to portray a unified vision to both existing and new consumers. But enacting this time of change needed to be done with as new an approach as the design was. After regional meetings to roll out the plan, Henderson and the VP of Operations C.W. Bruton met with 55 franchisees for 90-minutes each to discuss mandatory site upgrades. They met in the Andorra store that acted as a model home for brand components that each store would be required to make. They begin each meeting with a recap of the location’s sales from last year, overview of company sales, and then detailed out when the franchisee’s lease and franchise agreement was up for renewal. The team presented about the mandatory upgrades, necessary requirements, and the scope of work detailing what franchisees must update by a certain time period.
The structure is rolled out in waves, first enforcing a signage update, and then a base re-image which includes updates like wallpaper, paint, menu boards, and graphics by December 31st. The full remodel, which has differences based on the current design of the store, will need to be completed based on the lease or franchise agreement renewal.
The meetings were well received, and most franchisees understood the necessary adjustments needed to keep the brand moving forward. Better yet, to help address the issue of closing the locations for a few weeks to fully remodel, Saladworks' corporate team invested in a food truck to park outside of the stores so that franchisees can remain open and continue serving their loyal fans during the construction period.
“This decision was not implemented without a huge amount of research and time put against it,” said Hendreson. “The corporate team’s mission has been to always focus on putting together a well thought out strategy and plan to accomplish what we think will help move Saladworks forward. We understood how difficult it would be on franchisees to have to close, which is why we decided to provide them with a food truck to keep their operations from skipping a beat.”
The large undertaking will be completed by December 31st of 2017 with much of the system already in process, and the entire system is looking forward to seeing the payoff. While the industry is seeing sales decline, Saladworks has had seven straight quarters of positive sales growth. With more and more locations upgrading their design, the trend is only expected to continue as new franchisees sign on to join the system. The one-on-one process also proved so successful that Saladworks’ corporate team will be using the model as a framework for its annual business reviews to meet with franchisees and improve its system across the board.