As we enter a new phase of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant companies that have become associated with malls and transportation hubs will need to rethink their strategies. Jim Holthouser — CEO of Focus Brands, the parent company of Auntie Anne’s Cinnabon, Jamba, McAlister’s Deli and Schlotzsky’s — is confident in their ability to pivot.
Holthouser was named Focus Brands CEO in February and began his new job a mere two weeks before the pandemic began, which has been a challenge as he oversees the evolving future of all seven brands. Although some of their brands like sandwich chain Schlotzsky’s fared fairly well because of their robust digital and drive-thru platforms, others like Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon have struggled because they rely on malls, airports, and other transportation hubs that have shut down or severely reduced service during the pandemic.
“I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the restaurant industry that we knew in February, parts of it are forever changed,” Holthouser said during the video interview.
He added that for “mall brands,” Focus Brands has been trying to expand their footprint for years outside of brick and mortar hubs.
“We been diversifying its location types over the last several years. You’ll see more and more of them in street side locations, we’ve been opening them around universities,” he said. “We’ve got 30 food trucks that are franchises on wheels and we just launched the first Jamba smoothie truck as well. You’re not tied down to a particular location.”
He also added that during the pandemic itself, his brands have had to pivot to create innovative solutions on a dime.
“We sent out some instructions to Jamba locations: you buy some orange cones and an umbrella from Amazon and employ a runner and you can make a temporary drive-thru,” Holthouser said.
To learn more about Focus Brands’ strategy moving forward, watch the video interview with Focus Brands CEO Jim Holthouser below.
This is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.
Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi