Evolving consumer preferences have created a more dynamic and competitive market across the restaurant industry, which has made staying ahead of the curve essential. New technologies, real estate designs, and processes are all practical elements that we’ve seen brands adopt to optimize operations. Still, ensuring compatibility and consistent success is important before incorporating them across an entire franchise system. At Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, we utilize our corporate-owned locations to test and confirm if a new element fits our franchise network and will positively impact our operators’ bottom line.
Our brand has continued to grow rapidly across the country. Most recently, we opened our 500th location and signed development agreements to add new units to our growth pipeline in new and existing markets. Investing in corporate-owned locations and utilizing them as testing grounds for new innovations provides us with an opportunity to identify new ways to improve in areas we value most: Quality, genuine hospitality, and cleanliness.
Here are a few of the areas we evaluate to see how they will contribute to our franchisees’ success, all while maintaining the timeless traditions our loyal guests continue to return for.
Having a variety of effective real estate designs available for franchisees to consider provides them with flexibility and opportunities to open restaurants in the most promising locations available within their respective markets. It also allows operators to invest in formats that align with current consumer behavior. This year, we introduced our latest prototype by opening a new corporate-owned location in Bellville, Illinois, which is more efficient for off-premises dining while still offering a friendly dine-in atmosphere. We moved forward with this specific design after recognizing the increased number of guests choosing to order through their mobile app, third-party delivery services or our drive-thru. This shift has continued over the years and has resulted in nearly 70 percent of our system’s sales coming from off-premises.
Since launching the new format in Belleville, we’ve seen greater order accuracy, which results in higher guest satisfaction. The features of the new prototype allow us to ensure guests are experiencing Freddy’s genuine hospitality through every order mode they choose. The leaner build of the restaurant design also results in a smaller footprint, and we’re finding real estate more readily available. The insights serve as a guide to help communicate to franchisees how it can drive sales should they decide to invest.
Across the industry, we’ve seen technology play a pivotal role in streamlining various aspects of restaurant operations, such as simplifying the ordering process, improving accuracy, and increasing access and convenience. Our team at Freddy’s has carefully reviewed how our technology is performing both in the front and back of the house, all to meet our guests’ needs. Through our restaurant design, we’ve implemented new technology like Accutemp’s XLR8 kitchen technology, which presses Freddy’s steakburger patties into a consistent shape each time, making grill operations less physically demanding while increasing consistency for guests. Additionally, the restaurant’s designated digital pickup area has a custard freezer to give quick access to mobile and delivery orders without interfering with the dine-in order queue.
Beyond technology and the overall restaurant design, the increasing demand for food delivery and take-out also emphasizes the importance of revising operational processes. For example, to streamline efficiency overall, we’ve recently transformed the bagging station with a simplified, easy-to-interpret display and a shared expo counter to give the shift lead the ability to manage every aspect of the operation from one location.
Once proven successful, it’s critical for brands to develop a communications plan to explain updates to franchisees. Change can be difficult, but testing prior to the rollout allows us to provide franchisees with ROI and operational best practices to help them and their teams through the change. It’s all about proof of concept and data, and the best way to showcase results is by pointing to the success of corporate locations over a period of time with regular updates incorporated.
By Brian Wise, COO of Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Brian Wise is the Chief Operating Officer for Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, recognized as a leader in guest service for Fast-Casual restaurant chains. Brian oversees operations, training and innovation teams that partner with franchise operations to deliver genuine hospitality, quality and cleanliness in the unique Freddy’s Way. Garnering national recognition from industry-leading rankings, Freddy’s tops Newsweek’s list of America’s Best Customer Service and the Restaurant Business Top 500 Chains. Prior to joining Freddy’s, Brian was a partner and COO of HCI Hospitality, an award-winning restaurant ownership group of franchised and independent restaurants stretching from the Midwest to the East Coast.