Cover Story: French Lessons
Au Bon Pain CEO and president since January 2000, Frank Guidara has instituted major changes at the 25-year-old chain. Greeters and peppy employees have bolstered its reputation for hospitality. A redesign that shows off food in a light, bright atmosphere has proven a winner, increasing sales by 25 percent. The chain has installed nutrition kiosks in 75 percent of its 230 restaurants, despite protests from managers and franchisees. But the biggest push has been to bring Frenchness back to the menu.
By Lisa Bertagnoli
Storyboard: Heating Things Up
HuHot Mongolian Grill is stampeding into growth mode with its new ad campaign. The four-unit regional chain has rolled out new TV commercials, taglined “Where hunger meets its destiny,” to introduce the concept to both diners and prospective franchisees. Founder and CEO Andy Vap hopes to add franchisees to a total of nine or 10 units by year-end and 20 by the end of 2004, while increasing average unit volume to $2 million.
By Margaret Littman
Restauratour: High Definition
Sixty-five television screens might make the Fox Sports Grill in Scottsdale, Ariz., the perfect couch-away-from-couch for avid sports fans. A few details, however, turn the multiroom, 18,000-square-foot restaurant into one that’s as friendly to diners as it is to sports nuts. Waterfalls, silk flowers and fireplaces project a “come for the game, stay for a meal” feeling.
By Lisa Bertagnoli
Toque Of The Town: Real Simple
There will be no smoke and mirrors as long as Tim Soufan is in charge of the food at Denny’s. “A lot of concepts talk about how they like to do things with a twist. Well, I don’t like twists and neither does Denny’s customer,” he says. His no-nonsense approach is aimed at making the family-dining giant’s recipes better without shocking its core audience, and enticing them to trade up to new lunch, dinner and late-night dishes.
By Monica Rogers
Growth Strategy: Sitting Tight
IHOP CEO Julia Stewart is guiding the 1,118-unit company through its biggest and most interesting turnaround. Her goal is no less than making IHOP the No. 1 family-dining chain. To achieve it, she is ordering up mystery shoppers, limited-time offers and an aggressive media strategy. More importantly, she has transformed franchise development and is eagerly awaiting results.
By David Farkas
Food Safety: Top to Bottom
Baton Rouge, La.-based Piccadilly Cafeterias has always placed a strong emphasis on food safety. But now it has turned up the heat, certifying all managers in ServSafe, including many who don’t work in the restaurant. Even top management is going through training to make sure the message gets out systemwide that food safety is a top priority.
By Christine Zimmerman