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Chain LeaderEditorial Archives2005 — August — Restauratour

Extreme Makeover
D’Angelo repositions for growth with a new prototype, uniforms, logo and even a new name.

Take an online tour of D'Angelo Grilled Sandwiches
Photography by Christopher Navin

Short of serving sushi, Dedham, Mass.-based D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches couldn’t have done more to reposition itself in the fast-food sandwich market.

The chain of 141 company and 56 franchised stores unwrapped a new prototype this year. Gone are the fluorescent lights, tile floor, nondescript entryway and hurry-up-and-leave seating. In their place are incandescent lights, vinyl flooring that looks like hardwood, a foyer with descriptive menu boards and four-color food photos, and comfortable seating: high-backed booths, tables for two and counters set with bar stools. Upscale touches abound in the opaque glass schoolhouse lamps with tiny stripes and black concrete countertops.

Decorative brickwork, a fabric awning and gooseneck lamps create an attractive exterior. The old green-and-white logo announcing “D’Angelo Sandwich Shops” is gone; in its place is a sophisticated oxblood-and-gold logo announcing the chain’s new name: D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches.

D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches
Westborough, Mass.
Opening Day
Feb. 21, 2005
Papa Gino’s, Dedham, Mass.
WD Partners, Columbus, Ohio
2,300 square feet
Average Check
2005 Unit Sales
$800,000 (company estimate)
Expansion Plans
20 remodeled units by the end of February 2006;150 new units over the next five years

With the new name and decorative changes, not to mention new uniforms and extra service touches, customers can’t help but notice the difference, according to Lee Peterson, executive director at WD Partners, the Columbus, Ohio-based design firm that D’Angelo hired to oversee the repositioning. “I’ve stood there while people have said, ‘Holy cow, this is completely different,’” he says.

Vast changes have meant an adjustment for customers. When the prototype, in Westborough, Mass., first opened, “some people drove right by,” says Michael McManama, vice president of marketing for D’Angelo. “They were looking for the green sign.”

Who Moved My Menu Board?
In December 2003, D’Angelo decided that in the face of more and better competition in the sandwich arena, it needed to completely reposition its brand. “We need to provide a compelling story to prospective franchisees,” says McManama. D’Angelo plans to add 150 units, mostly franchised, over the next five years.

WD Partners started on the project in March 2004 with February 2005 as the target opening date. “They were on a fast track,” McManama says.

To create the feeling of an authentic Boston sub shop, Peterson and his team prowled the city’s Back Bay and Newbury Street for ideas. An ice-cream parlor, sub shop and marketplace all offered inspiration for the brick walls, wood flooring and masculine color palette.

Several features play up the grill and made-to-order menu, D’Angelo’s key points of difference, says McManama. WD Partners opened up the kitchen so customers can view the grill and the sandwich and salad make-up line, and cut 100 square feet from the kitchen to trim ticket times and create more space in the dining room.

To better sell the menu, the designers fashioned an entryway lined with menu boards and food photography.

Service “Wows”
Service improvements, or “wows,” complement the redesign. Orders, once served sub-wrapped in a paper bag, are now presented on a plastic tray covered with logoed craft paper. The kitchen staff rings a cowbell when a customer orders a Number 9, the chain’s grilled-steak sandwich. Customers whose order number ends in 9 get a free drink, dessert or other offer.

The staff’s old Kelly-green uniforms have been replaced with burgundy T-shirts for associates and black tops for managers. Each associate’s nametag includes his or her favorite sandwich to encourage dialogue with guests.

More improvements are in the works. D’Angelo is testing toasted sandwiches at its Newburyport and Westport stores, and french fries, onion rings and fried pita chips at the Newburyport unit.

While the prototype investment is less than 20 percent higher than the older look (D’Angelo won’t give specific figures), the prototype needs to be value-engineered, says Merrill Johnson, vice president of construction for D’Angelo. The chain will trade in the poured concrete countertops for a finished solid surface, which Johnson says will provide the same upscale look at half the cost. The schoolhouse lamps will be replaced with a readily available stock item. And the overhang above the ordering counter, currently comprising four pieces, each with eight incandescent spotlights, will be reconfigured to include two pieces and only six lights.

Beyond the Honeymoon
Five months into the repositioning, the Westborough store is on track to gross more than $800,000 this year, compared to an average unit volume of $585,000. The new kitchen design has cut a minute to a minute-and-a-half from ticket times, bringing the average to about six minutes.

Checks are also up 50 cents, to $8.75: “It’s people staying and buying another drink or dessert,” McManama says. Three to 5 percent more customers dine in rather than take out, bringing the dine-in figure to the “high twenties to low thirties,” he adds.

Ninety-eight percent of guests surveyed rate the new look a four or five on a scale of one to five, McManama says.

Regular customer Kelly Nowlin is one of them. “It’s great,” says Nowlin.“I don’t feel like I’m sitting in a scummy sub shop.”


Freshly Tossed Salad
Greek Salad: feta cheese, black olives and Greek dressing, $4.49

Chicken Cobb Salad: chicken, bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, red onions and honey-mustard dressing, with choice of wrap, $4.99

Hot Subs and Pokkets
Number 9: grilled steak, mushrooms, peppers, onions and cheese, $4.59 small, $5.89 medium, $7.69 large

Cold Subs and Pokkets
Lobster tossed with mayonnaise and lettuce, market price

D’Angelo D’Lites Low Fat
Classic Grilled Vegetable D’Lite: grilled peppers, mushrooms and onions with American cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, $3.79

Sweet Endings
Cookies, 99 cents

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