Gumby’s averts pokey service with limited menu

GAINESVILLE FLA. Gumby’s Pizza [3], a growing takeout and delivery concept, the rush is just getting started. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

The chain, based here, counts on phones ringing off the hook into the wee hours—sometimes until 4 a.m.—as college students place orders for post-party pizzas and breadsticklike logs of pizza dough topped with garlic and cheese, called “Pokey Stix.” —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

That’s Pokey as in Gumby and Pokey, the crudely-crafted clay stars of a stop-action animation series that first aired during the 1950s, often appearing in later decades in off-hours like early Sunday morning, before or after such campy shows as “Davey and Goliath.” —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

After years of controlled chaos in the kitchen, the 25-unit chain last year instituted a way to handle the crunch: It cuts its menu during those key hours to the top-selling items only. While during the day Gumby’s offers dozens of pizzas, pastas, rice bowls and salads, the menu at night now is limited to pizza, Pokey Stix, pepperoni rolls, Buffalo wings and soda. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

“A light bulb went off to limit products during the bar rush that take a little bit longer to make,” said Chance Hippler, who co-founded Gumby’s in 1985 with Jeff O’Brien, a fraternity brother at the University of Florida. “If you have 40 or 50 tickets to be made, the last thing you want to do is make a special stuffed pizza roll.” —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

Before crunch time, a fax is sent out to stores to remind managers to change to the “bar rush” menu and refresh the computer system to the new menu. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

Not only is the menu limited, Hippler said, but he also took a chance and raised prices for the rush, up to $1 more per item, which helps offset the need for more staff to handle the volume. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

“We have seen zero effect,” he said. “People don’t even notice.” —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

Gumby’s large pies typically sell for $10.99 plus $1.40 per topping. Hippler raised prices from $8.99 and $1 a topping last year. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

The home location in Gainesville is Gumby’s busiest, with $1.4 million in annual sales. For the bar rush there, staff is doubled to 12, with 20 drivers on hand. Gumby’s charges up to $1.50 for deliveries. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

Because many college campuses now restrict deliveries to dorm lobbies, delivery has gotten faster, said Hippler. If six separate orders come from one big dorm, a driver can meet the customers en masse in the lobby rather than traipse around the building. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

Gumby’s has been slow to expand but is working to raise capital to grow more aggressively, said Hippler, who dropped out of college a few credits shy of graduating to start the company. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

Today, Gumby’s has 20 corporate and five franchised locations in 16 states. Systemwide sales topped $16 million last year and are on track to grow by 20 percent this year. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

“We have been profitable and are growing,” said Hippler, who runs a lean operation with a corporate staff of six. The restaurants employ a total of 2,000 people. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

Gumby’s name was sparked by O’Brien’s college nickname—he was known for wearing a green warm-up suit the same color as the rubbery cartoon character. The pair managed to secure the trademark rights for 100 years directly from Gumby’s creator. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at

In recent weeks, Gumby’s launched a new website and started using pizza boxes that highlight their signature character on the top and bottom. This way, the branding is apparent even in a dorm garbage can, Hippler noted. —Come midnight on a Friday or Saturday, many restaurants are locking up for the night. But at