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Zaxby’s to test new restaurant design

Zaxby’s, the fast-casual chicken specialist, has debuted a new restaurant design that management hopes will have more visual appeal from the street and allow for more efficiency and flexibility in the kitchen.

Two company-owned locations, in the Georgia cities of Valdosta and Lake Park, will be built with the new 3,785-square-foot design that the Athens, Ga.-based company’s founder and chief executive Zach McLeroy described as being like a “classy farmhouse.”

The restaurants are slated to open in mid- to late February.

“We’ve been very successful with the look we have,” McLeroy said, but added that as other companies have imitated some components of the design — such as the 535-unit chain’s columns — it was time for a new look.

“We want people to think, ‘That’s what I’d think a chicken restaurant would look like,’” he said.

The exterior will feature corrugated tin awnings, board and batten and lapboard siding, and brick trim. The building is rectangular instead of square with pop-out elements. In addition, the drive-thru section will feature a metal silo.

“We’ve made the dining room a little bit more open than in the past,” McLeroy added.

The interior walls in the kitchen have been removed to allow for more operational efficiency and, McLeroy hopes, to serve more guests.

The more open kitchen also will allow for the installation of a larger hood, giving the chain the option of adding new equipment to experiment with different menu items and perhaps more dayparts in the future — possibly breakfast, McLeroy said.

A new beverage station and heating and air-conditioning units also will be part of the new design, the company said.

McLeroy said the company would evaluate the new design for the rest of the year and “try to figure out ways to take cost out of the building” before mandating the new design for franchisees, who operate about 85 percent of Zaxby’s restaurants.

Noting that Zaxby’s restaurants are enjoying sales growth and that “sales in general are up for the first three weeks of the year,” McLeroy said the company’s major initiative for 2012 is to figure out how their franchisees can take advantage of the sluggish economy.

“There’s a lot more opportunity for real estate than there was before,” he said.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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