This is part of NRN’s special coverage of the 2011 Multi-Unit Foodservice Operator conference, or MUFSO. The conference is taking place Sept. 25-27 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas. Follow all coverage on NRN’s "At the Show" section, check out the NRN blog, Reporter’s Notebook, and Tweet with us using #MUFSO.
This post is part of NRN's newsroom blog, Reporter's Notebook.
2011 NRN Golden Chain award winner Steve Romaniello has been an important part of Roark Capital Group’s foodservice acquisition spree in recent years, including this year’s purchase of a controlling interest in Arby’s from the organization now known as The Wendy’s Co. Romaniello recently spoke with NRN about Arby’s as part of a larger discussion dealing with his role at Roark, where he is a managing director and chairman of the Atlanta-based company's Focus Brands and Wingstop holdings.
Reported North American same-store sales at Arby’s fell 5.8 percent and 8.8 percent in fiscal 2010 and 2009, respectively. The number of systemwide restaurants fell 2.8 percent, to 3,649 units, between the end of 2008 and end of 2010. And, given the deal that brought Arby's to Roark, it would appear that whatever synergies or benefits were expected from the 2008 combination of Arby’s and Wendy’s under the former Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc. never materialized or did not manifest themselves to the degree originally imagined by the architects of that two-is-better strategy.
NRN: Why was Arby’s a good acquisition for Roark?
Romaniello: We think Arby’s is an iconic brand and very well known and very well liked, with a great deal of consumer appeal. It is a brand that owns something: it owns roast beef. It is known for roast beef and it has a very distinctive position. When you consider it against some of our competitors in the sandwich space, it is among the largest in that space.
It has the ability to roast and slice proteins and the benefit of a drive-thru. It has many, many years in these locations and some terrific real estate. There are still some very great people working at the company who are committed to the brand and its success and the base of franchisees is phenomenal. They’ve been around for a while, they love the brand and know its history and appreciate it, and they share our belief it can be great again.
We were excited about the opportunity with Arby’s and we do think there is path to reestablish the brand as a premiere brand, as it once was. Those things that I mentioned -- assets that are very difficult to recreate -- will be those things that we will attempt, in conjunction with management and franchisees, to leverage to bring us back to where we should be.
All the Golden Chain honorees, as well as Pioneer, Norman and Operator of the Year designees, will be feted Monday night during an “Industry Celebration & Awards Recognition” event at MUFSO, at the Gaylord Texan resort in Grapevine, Texas.
Read a profile of Romaniello among the many profiles of 2011 Golden Chain winners in NRN or as part of NRN.com's coverage of Golden Chain and MUFSO 2011
Contact Alan Liddle at [email protected].