We’ve all been there, that moment you say, “Oh my gosh, I’m seriously turning 35?”
Big milestones like that are ripe for self-reflection and thoughtful reflection, or a great time to go nuts and buy a Miata. There are a lot of legacy concepts going through the same thing right now. Hoping to avoid that crisis of age, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s has already done a lot of self-work ahead of the big 35-year mark. CEO Chris Elliott said the milestone did not sneak up on he or the company.
“I think this is the accumulation of a lot of things we’ve done in the last four or five years years that have all coalesced and are now working well together,” said Elliot.
He said there were four major updates: a move to a single, system-wide point of sale (POS) system, a big kitchen technology upgrade, a menu update and a remodel program.
He said all those efforts combined have continued a same-store sales streak that averages out to 2 percent a year since 2011. So far this year, it’s up 3.4 percent, made up of actual traffic growth of 1.5 percent and price and menu mix providing the remaining 1.9 percent. And in the past decade, average unit volumes have increased 53 percent.
“We expect to break $1.3 million, which would be the highest it’s ever been,” said Elliott. “The place looks better, the service is faster and there are things on the menu that we needed to put on there, so it’s a really new experience. It’s not the same Beef ‘O’ Brady’s it was a decade ago.”
As the industry knows, there is no silver bullet to improve performance, just a lot of small victories from the various projects. The POS update brought tablets to the servers and the tables, speeding up service by getting orders input at the table instead of a server station and the option to order and pay at the table meant faster throughput. The new POS also meant new customer touch points.
“On the front and back end, the service got faster and it doesn’t take much at the customer level to see that it’s much more efficient,” said Elliott. “It also gave us two things we never had: a loyalty program and online ordering capabilities. So it gave us three dimensions that helped improve service.”
The new POS also helped the company embrace delivery, which is a growing part of the business. The highest volume store picked up $150,000 of incremental sales; though convincing franchisees who haven’t embraced it that delivery works profitably well is an ongoing discussion.
In the kitchen, there’s a lot of fried foods, but the center of the kitchen was not all that sophisticated.
“We went form very rudimentary fryers to top of the line fryers, self filtering, improved the quality of the product and improved capacity,” said Elliott. “We’re also adding holding equipment, high tech holding so we an ramp up the volume and get better service. We also put kitchen display units at each station that improved our order flow and accuracy. We brought the kitchen into the 21st century.”
After some industry research, the menu clearly needed some updating. So the company created a grill menu that Elliott said has been “very successful.”
And the final major project, the remodels, are rolling out. So far, 14 company locations have an updated look and are performing very well, bringing all the updates together and showing customers that things are different.
“The remodels have probably outperformed our expectations,” said Elliott.
Altogether, the remodel and all the other projects has pushed restaurant sales up by between 16 and 20 percent. He said that rolling out all these changes will be a sea change or the system, partially empowered by a 2017 partnership with restaurant-exclusive private equity firm CapitalSpring, that helped guide the updates and provide capital for some of the big changes.
There were a lot of changes, but Elliott said one core thing has stayed the same at the more than 215 locations: A small-market focus and close community engagement.