STORES Magazine - September 2017 - 44
Fazoli's relies on customer feedback and technology to be successful
by LEN LEWIS
here's an old Italian saying: "Mangia
che ti passa!"
Loosely translated, it means: "Eat and
you'll feel better!"
Italians tend to have a lot of sayings that
revolve around food and dining. But this
philosophy has clearly been at the heart of
Fazoli's success in the hyper-competitive
restaurant business where making patrons
feel good about the food - as well as
their surroundings - is crucial.
The customer-centric view has become
even more important as the chain
continues an aggressive remodeling
and expansion program and rolls out a
recently completed menu initiative that
removed all artificial ingredients, colors
and preservatives from its dishes.
"You always have to evolve
the brand or you'll be left
behind," says Carl
STORES September 2017
Howard, president and CEO of the
fast-casual chain, which opened in
Lexington, Ky., in 1988. "That's why
our restaurants are being completely
redesigned and remodeled and look
nothing like the older Fazoli's."
Noting that the company's restaurants
seat 3,000 or more people every week,
"after four or five years they look used,"
Howard says. "You can just update the
old look with new carpet and booths.
But we decided it was time to take things
a step further with a fresher, more
modern, look. Last year's remodels look
great, but the interiors were the same as
they were before."
It's a big job for
the 216unit chain,
and 92 franchised
"Whether you're a large or small
chain, you have to invest capital to keep
things fresh and relevant or you'll lose
business. People don't want to sit in an
old, outdated restaurant where the paint
is chipped and the booths are worn," he
says. "Most of our capital expenditures
are going into remodels as well as
developing the franchise business."
The company is also continuing to open
company-owned locations, including
several in Missouri by 2018.
"Ideally we'd like to grow in contiguous
markets," Howard says. The majority of
the company's locations are in Kentucky,
Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee. "But
we're seeing a lot of interesting growth in
Georgia and Texas, the latter of which is
being explored for future locations."
The rebranding is being phased in over
time in order to gauge customer attitudes
and avoid costly mistakes. Fazoli's
conducted successful "alpha tests" at
three remodeled locations last year and is
planning "beta tests" in more locations,
"We proved it in three and now we'll
prove the new restaurant design in nine or
10 more locations," he says. "We might
continue to find things we want to change
in a faster and less expensive way. Right
now, we have five locations under some
sort of remodel program."
Consumer research is an essential part
of the process. "We found out what
people liked and didn't like in the first two
remodels and applied what we learned in
the next group of remodels," Howard says.
The chain averages between 400 and 500
surveys per location prior to a remodel,
and about the same after it's completed.
"We want to know how we compare
to our competitors and how the
Fazoli's experience has improved
because of the changes we've made," he
says. "We never stop focusing on the
consumer experience. They are the true