ATLANTA Focus Brands Inc., the franchisor of several quick-service brands, said that it is experimenting with table service in 35 branches of its 400-unit Schlotzsky’s sandwich chain.
About 20 company restaurants and 15 franchised stores now offer table service instead of having customers retrieve their food from the counter after their name or number is called, said Steve Romaniello, Focus’ president and chief executive. The employees who bring the orders to the tables are not tipped, he indicated.
Romaniello said the test has officially been underway for four months, though some franchisees started running orders to tables close to nine months ago. The test began after research indicated that table service would be a way of distinguishing Schlotzsky’s from its fast-casual competitors, Romaniello said. Ruby Tuesday Inc. has similarly scrapped the limited-service set-up of the Asian fast-casual brand it bought last July. The lone Wok Hay unit, in Knoxville, Tenn., now offers table service, as will a second unit that the casual-dining company plans to develop.
Romaniello said he was pleased with the preliminary results from the switch to full service. “Some managers have said the response has been so good that they feel some customers are coming in more frequently than before,” he said.
He asserted that the change in costs have not been significant, even with no tipping involved. “We thought at first the incremental labor might be higher, but we recognized that our managers need to be out there anyway,” Romaniello said. “The higher-volume stores might cost a bit extra, but right now we are seeing no evidence of that.”
In addition to Schlotzsky’s, Focus is parent to the Carvel, Cinnabon and Moe’s Southwest Grill brands. Focus largely franchises the 2,200 restaurants that bear its brands.