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freddy's steakburgers.jpg Photo courtesy of Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers
Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers

Freddy’s is jumping into catering as part of its growth strategy

Freddy’s has several growth initiatives underway, including a new grill, kitchen display system, and catering business.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers has been on quite a tear of late, registering a 14.5% increase in sales from 2022 to 2023, and a 12.9% increase in unit count. The 22-year-old better burger concept’s numbers, according to Technomic Ignite data, more than double the category average for sales and unit count growth, and it’s just getting started.

During a recent interview, COO Brian Wise said the company has been working on ways to make employees’ jobs easier while also improving consistency and throughput – all with the ultimate goal of maintaining its brisk growth pace. As part of this effort, Freddy’s is adding new grill technology, which has cut cooking time by about 40% and has contributed to higher sales.

“We’re getting a hand-pressed patty, so it’s lean, crispy edges with that dome center, and we get there pretty quick – in about 90 seconds start to finish,” Wise said.

The grill is now rolled out to about 25% of the system, with full rollout expected within the next 18 months. Notably, the company began developing the grill in 2018 but didn’t start in-store implementation until last year.

“We weren’t going to move forward until we knew we had it right. For us, innovation has to hit two major areas – it has to be right for the guest and increase the value of their experience. A more consistent patty that is more timely is a big deal. Secondly, we’re embarking to de-stress the employees. The calmer our employees are, our throughput increases. Our griddle program checks both of those boxes,” Wise said.

New equipment isn’t the only effort Freddy’s is making to improve operations; there’s also new tech. The company was predominately a dine-in brand pre-2020 and now most of its sales come from off-premises channels – about 70% – whether drive-thru, mobile order or delivery. With this shift, Freddy’s has had to make some back-of-house adjustments to ensure better accuracy.

“Bagged food, you’ve got to be right. There’s no chance make it right with the guest if it's wrong. What we’ve learned is that our kitchen display systems were confusing,” Wise said.

So, the company worked to update those systems and change the way employees receive information; think color coding and photos versus written instructions, for instance. Freddy’s is rolling out the new kitchen display system now and Wise said the tests have been “spectacular” – reducing employee stress, increasing production times, and improving accuracy. Freddy’s is also working to improve its digital ordering channels; its mobile app was launched about two years ago, so it’s full speed ahead there.

“This is a new order mode that continues to grow, and it reaches many different segments of consumers. We gather so much good feedback on how they want to experience Freddy’s,” Wise said.

And, catering is also now part of Freddy’s business model. The channel is currently rolling out to the entire system and will be at 100% within the next couple of weeks. Wise said franchisees drove the catering initiative, as guests from office buildings, student organizations, birthday parties, and more, were requesting to have Freddy’s delivered to them.

“Our franchisees were integral in the initial part of the testing. Creating a special moment for guests is what we talk about every day, whether mobile order, delivery, drive-thru. Why not catering?” Wise said.

There is no catering sales mix data quite yet, but Wise said it has been a revenue driver in the morning/pre-lunch daypart which, he added, “are great sales to have.”

This collection of initiatives is part of Freddy’s overall strategy, which is to improve by a little every day. It’s a strategy Wise himself followed when he first started franchising with the brand in the early 2000s. He moved to the corporate team in 2019 and his first project was to bring more data-driven decisions to operations.

“For us, having clear visibility and then being able to bring that into an operational situation – identifying where orders were being held up, what guests are ordering, blending all that together – helps us develop that into a coherent strategy,” Wise said. “Through Covid, the challenges in the kitchen increased dramatically so the reliance of data helped us rebalance those kitchens. We’re smarter for that.”

Data, Wise added, will continue to play a big role in Freddy’s growth initiatives. The chain currently has about 530 locations and plans are to build another 60-ish this year.  

“The pipeline is looking even more promising in the future,” Wise said. “When you know who you are and stay dedicated to that, you work to make it a little bit better every day. It’s a formula that’s worked for Freddy’s for many years.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]


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