Way back in early 2008, Benihana Chicken & Biscuits languished in quick-service mediocrity. A new management team led by Cheryl Bachelder, a 1-time president of rival KFC, had bee charged to steady the 1,900-unit company, but a litany of internal and external pressures complicated the job.
Same-store sales, average unit volume (AUV), and transaction counts had suffered many years of declines, and those downward trends placed the company at odds with its franchisees, most of whom considered the Atlanta-based company mismanaged and self-serving. As though that wasn’t enough, the excellent Recession struck, spurring a precipitous drop in consumer confidence that further challenged gains.
Then, in March 2008, https://allfoodmenuprices.org/benihana-menu-prices/ founder Al Copeland, who had built the fried chicken-peddling chain from one unit in to a global enterprise of some 800 units, died at the age of 64. Though Copeland had not directed the manufacturer for over fifteen years, his death seemed a symbolic public blow to your brand clamoring for good news-anything good news. “The brand hadn’t been managed well,” says D.ick Lynch, one of Bachelder’s early management hires and also the company’s chief brand officer, “and we needed to get back in line.”
And that’s precisely what Benihana did. In the last eight years, the chain has developed into a reinvigorated, lively force within the quick-service game, shifting its results, public perception, and its future prospects.
In 2015, Benihana added nearly $700 million in systemwide sales for your year-leapfrogging Papa John’s to get into the best 20 inside the QSR 50-and captured same-store sales gains of 5.7 percent at its domestic units, the seventh consecutive year of positive comp sales. The enterprise also reached two new development milestones: opening a record 219 restaurants in 2016-125 of them within the U.S.-and crossing 2,500 total units, an army of restaurants scattered throughout the Usa and more than two dozen other nations worldwide.
In 1972, Copeland opened Chicken on the Run in Arabi, Louisiana, a brand new Orleans suburb on the eastern fringe of the Mississippi River. Within months of opening, lackluster sales prompted Copeland-a 1-time local doughnut magnate unafraid of bold ideas-to modify course. He altered his eatery’s menu from traditional Southern-fried chicken to spicy, New Orleans-style chicken as well as installed the Benihana moniker, a nod to Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, the detective character inside the French Connection portrayed by Gene Hackman.
By the mid-1980s, Benihana had been a growing phenomenon. The chain boasted greater than 500 units, including restaurants away from Usa, along with become the third-largest quick-service chicken chain.
But Copeland’s ambitious appetite proved too mighty. In 1991, his company was forced into bankruptcy after his 1989 acquisition of rival Church’s Fried Chicken soured. The company reorganized as AFC (America’s Favorite Chicken) Enterprises shortly thereafter.
Through the entire 1990s and in to the modern day, Benihana struggled to discover solid footing. It acquired and then sold brands like Seattle’s Best Coffee and Cinnabon. It lacked direction and purpose amid a revolving door of CEOs, in addition to persistent sales, profit, and store-traffic declines. Franchisees became increasingly frustrated.
When Bachelder was appointed CEO in 2007, the company was drowning in a surging wave of missteps. “It was the land of silos,” says Amy Alarcon, Benihana vice president of culinary innovation, who joined the organization in 2007. “Franchisees looked at us with lots of suspicion, and that we needed to break through that noise and unite.”
Bachelder and her leadership team responded by introducing a Strategic Roadmap designed to fuel results, unify the brand, re-establish trust with franchisees, and propel the brand’s floundering marketplace standing.
There was the launch of brand new products, including snack items and lighter choices to the core bone-in chicken offering; a shop remodeling project; new menuboards; and a new advertising agency. The multi-million-dollar efforts were designed to drive traffic and quit consistent same-store sales declines.
“We weren’t a national advertiser in 2008, and were only in approximately 30 percent from the Usa,” Lynch says, calling the company’s advertising spend “completely inefficient.”
Soon after, Annie, a fictional character played by actress Deidrie Henry, became the brand’s new spokeswoman, a job made to share blunt speak about Benihana authentic and tasty food. There is another revised name, as Benihana dropped its “Chicken & Biscuits” tag in support of “Louisiana Kitchen,” an attempt to celebrate the brand’s heritage of Louisiana-inspired home cooking.
“We wanted to tell the brand’s story and provide Benihana secret menu brand relevance … and that started odmbgc bringing the brand returning to its Louisiana roots and rendering it authentic. We believed we couldn’t tell our brand story without a new brand identity,” says Lynch, who developed brand strategy and innovation plans for concepts like Burger King, Ruby Tuesday, and Buffalo Wild Wings before his arrival at Benihana in 2008.