Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

FEB 2019

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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60 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • FEBRUARY 2019 decade ago Fazoli's was a flailing brand with numer- ous store closings and declining sales. The Italian concept, says CEO Carl Howard, was "positioned in the QSR space. We were getting killed. I came in and did a brand study to find out why the brand was performing so poorly. We really got no credit for food quality or for service, and that's pretty much what we do for a living." That study led to a major rebrand of the chain — one that ultimately resulted in a category shift. Instead of being a straight quick-service operation, Fazoli's now views itself as an "elevated QSR," similar to concepts like Culver's and Whataburger. At around $7.50 a meal, Fazoli's prices are slightly lower than many fast-casual operations, says Howard, who adds that he believes the quality and service Fazoli's of- fers also rank above traditional fast food. Finding this space between spaces has been a matter of up- grading or adjusting practically everything about the operation. Much of this work started with the menu. Fazoli's evalu- ated literally every ingredient in its kitchen and every com- ponent of every dish, making several upgrades as a result. For example, the company no longer uses any precooked chicken, tomato-based sauces now use cold-pressed tomatoes and the Alfredo sauce has more dairy. The chain has also added new menu items, with a focus on its popular baked pasta dishes, like lasagna and baked spaghetti with meatballs. These menu changes were accompanied by tweaks to the chain's kitchen setup. The restaurant reworked its flow to reduce steps in the back of the house and added fast- cooking ovens to speed the production of its baked pastas. Surprisingly, though, Fazoli's menu at first didn't result in the improvements the chain expected, says Howard. "As we elevated the menu, we didn't necessarily get the credit that we should have received. Sales went flat and I thought sales would bounce. We weren't getting the food quality scores we were expecting. Really it's because you can put great food on a Styrofoam plate and you'll get a substandard score." In response, Fazoli's did something highly unusual within the QSR space: it dropped disposables for dine-in guests in favor of real plates and real flatware. The chain then matched this improved presentation with improved service in the front of the house. Fazoli's ditched pagers in favor of table runners — a big help to seniors, QSR Goes High-Touch THIS ONCE-STRUGGLING QSR HAS FOUND SUCCESS THANKS TO A SHIFT IN SECTOR. Fazoli's new interior offers guests multiple seating options, making for an unusually comfortable envi- ronment in the QSR space.

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