What changes and expansion plans are currently in the works for US Beef?
In a phrase, we are in an accelerated growth mode. In December, 2015, we announced a new development agreement with our franchisor, Arby’s Restaurant Group (ARG) to build 70 new restaurants through 2022, including 40 new restaurants in the Denver, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Boise, ID markets, which we acquired in December, 2013. We also have design plans on the table to remodel 123 of our restaurants through 2022. By the end of 2022, the US Beef footprint will total more than 400 Arby’s restaurants in nine contiguous Midwest and western states. What we’re really excited about is how this translates to a lot of career opportunities with our current and prospective colleagues. It’s a good time to be associated with US Beef.
With all the restaurant choices that exist today, what does it take for a longstanding restaurant such as Arby’s to stand out from the crowded competition?
Very timely question. The Arby’s brand celebrated its 50th Anniversary in business in 2014, and my father, Bob Davis, purchased his first Arby’s at 42nd and Peoria in 1969. So it is indeed an iconic national brand that has stood the test of time by being innovative and different at a time when burger places were opening up on every corner. Arby’s was the first fast food restaurant to offer their guests a healthier choice and a big taste with slow roasted roast beef – not fried – with bold new sauces in Arby’s sauce and Horsey sauce, seasoned curly fries that were unique and fun to eat, and of course, our famous Jamocha shake. Our sandwiches demonstrated to value seeking customers that value is defined in the quality and quantity of the product, not just price. But in today’s competitive environment, with new food concepts opening every day around the country and in our territories, Arby’s recognized it too needed to evolve and give our guests more choices with exciting new taste profiles. That was the inertia behind our newest concept, “Meatcraft makes the sandwich” and the advertising campaign, “We have the meats”. Our position in the food category has a unique niche between traditional QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) and Fast Casual, offering our guests generous portions of premium cuts of meat to make deli inspired sandwiches like our Reuben, Smokehouse Brisket, Gyros, and French Dip. We have a huge new product pipeline and are in test markets constantly trying to determine what the next hot food trend in menu development is and store design to delight our guests every time they step into our stores or go through our drive thru. Naturally, for all of our Arby’s loyalists, we’ll always be ready to slice you your favorite Classic roast beef or beef ‘n cheddar sandwich. Of course, I’d be remiss in not mentioning our greatest differentiation – our people. You can’t train friendly, you hire it. And since we opened our doors in 1969, we’ve focused our recruiting efforts on hiring people who share our family’s Compass philosophy and culture of serving our guests as if they were coming into our own homes, with enduring core values of Commitment – Respect – and Humility!
Have you personally tried every Arby’s menu item? What’s your personal favorite?
I absolutely try every Arby’s menu item. I’ve served on the Arby’s Franchisee Association board of directors, and we’re able to sample 6 to 8 new products quarterly coming out of Arby’s test kitchens in Atlanta. Of course, it’s like a wine tasting. You sample just a few bites from each new sandwich, side items, or desserts. At the risk of sounding biased, I have to say Arby’s has great chefs in the kitchen, always striving to bring new and exciting taste profiles into our restaurants, and recent sales and transactions trends indicate they’re doing just that. One of the great things about Arby’s is that you can eat lunch or dinner there 7 days a week for a month and be able to choose a difference meal every time. As to my personal favorite, I’m one of those loyalists I referenced earlier who literally grew up on our Classic Roast Beef. Wrap up one of those with an order of potato cakes and a Jamocha shake, some Arby’s sauce, and I’m a very happy diner.