Baton Rouge, La.-based casual dining brand Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux announced Wednesday the promotion of Scott Taylor from COO and president to CEO, after twelve years at the company. Taylor will be taking the helm from the company’s founder, Brandon Landry, who will transition to chairman of the board of directors. In an exclusive interview with NRN, Taylor discussed his ambitions for Walk-On’s, including franchising expansion goals, and continuing to transition to a more tech and menu innovation-focused future.
“When Walk-On’s opened 20 years ago, we were known as a great sports bar, and today we're known for our scratch kitchen with the taste of Louisiana,” Taylor said. “As we evolve, we need to embrace our heritage but realize that the customer is different than they were 20 years ago and they eat differently. So some of the portion sizes or flavors might change, while also maintaining that from-scratch mindset because that’s gotten us to where we are today.”
Taylor is particularly excited about the possibilities of menu innovation, with items like the new ahi tuna, chicken and shrimp bowls, which might never have been considered on-brand decade ago. The company is also working on a new category of flatbreads and a “junior varsity” menu that’s geared toward 8 to 13-year-olds.
Besides menu changes, Taylor will also be leading the charge in the evolution of the company’s footprint and store portfolio. As they aim to attract more franchisees, Walk-On’s is looking into much smaller footprints than they have occupied in the past, like many restaurants have. They are instead looking at 5,000-7,000-square-foot spaces and have released a new restaurant design that can be opened in a shopping center and gives them access to new markets and demographics.
“We would never build a 10,000 square foot restaurant today just don't need all that space,” Taylor said. “COVID taught us that you can go smaller and still drive sales volume.”
As Taylor transitions into his new role, he said that 2023 will be “the year of technology” for Walk-On’s, particularly tech solutions that eliminate friction for both employees and guests. This year, they will be launching a new and improved online ordering platform, website, and aggregator to consolidate third-party delivery. Walk-On’s will also be using a new seating platform to better organize seating capacities and efficiencies for the front of house.
All of these changes – including smaller footprints, more efficient technologies, and a consistently evolving menu, are meant to incentivize new franchisees for the company’s ambitious development plans.
“We've learned lots of things during COVID from ‘how big does our building need to be?’ to ‘how big does our menu need to be?’” Taylor said. “We’re acting on these items that can make this concept successful and profitable. I want to continue to put us in a position for prospective franchisees to look at this opportunity and think, ‘I love the brand. I love the culture, I want to make a bunch of money as a franchisee.’ My role is positioning this brand for the future.”
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