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Huddle House CEO outlines new strategy

Huddle House CEO outlines new strategy

Ken Keymer speaks with NRN on sales, franchisees and remodels

Faced with a changing landscape in the family-dining segment, new Huddle House chief executive Ken Keymer said he will build on a strategic plan he shaped as Huddle House’s interim chief executive last year and also roll out new, upgraded looks at restaurant sites in May.

Keymer, named permanent CEO of the Atlanta-based 400-unit chain, said his primary goals are to make the Huddle House brand more current and the menu more exciting. He also will work with franchisees to better drive profit and give operators better tools to run their businesses.

“Because of the economy, a large number of franchisees are not making the same level of profits,” Keymer said in an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News. “We want to work with franchisees to build profitability. We want to see profit gains besides sales gains.”

Keymer said same-store sales at Huddle House were flat in December and January because of bad weather, but picked up in February and March. He declined to provide specific percentage increases, but described the gain as in the middle single digits. Huddle House’s fiscal year ends in April.

To keep sales up, Huddle House is rolling out a variety of improvements in May, Keymer said.

Huddle House will have a more contemporary look on the outside, with signage changes and a tower element. Inside, customers will enjoy upgraded booths and an interior décor that Keymer described as “more fun.” The booths will include some that are round and allow customers to sit amid local photos. TV sets and upgraded audio will be added, too, Keymer said.

Keymer also said he wants to be more active with franchisees. For example, an emphasis will be placed on strengthening labor practices by speaking with newer franchisees on best practices around employee scheduling.

The 47-year-old family-dining chain has 380 franchised units and 20 corporate locations throughout 17 states in the southeast, southwest and Midwest. Keymer took the reins from former CEO Phil Greifeld, who spent 12 years as chief executive of Huddle House.

Keymer initially thought he would remain interim CEO until Nov. 2010, but in February, “I realized I was having a lot of fun and enjoyed working with the management team,” he noted. “So I said. ‘What the heck, I might as well be all in.’”

Keymer’s resume includes serving as the president and chief operating officer of Sonic Corp. and chief executive positions at Vicorp Inc., AFC Enterprises Inc. and Noodles and Co.

Contact Alan Snel at [email protected].

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