Way back in early 2008, Benihana Chicken & Biscuits languished in quick-service mediocrity. A new management team led by Cheryl Bachelder, a one-time president of rival KFC, had bee charged to steady the 1,900-unit company, but a litany of external and internal pressures complicated the task.
Same-store sales, average unit volume (AUV), and transaction counts had suffered many years of declines, and the ones downward trends placed the organization at odds featuring its franchisees, most of whom considered the Atlanta-based company mismanaged and self-serving. As though that wasn’t enough, the fantastic Recession struck, spurring a precipitous drop in consumer confidence that further challenged gains.
Then, in March 2008, Benihana menu founder Al Copeland, who had built the fried chicken-peddling chain from one unit right into a global enterprise of some 800 units, died at age 64. Though Copeland had not directed the manufacturer for longer than fifteen years, his death seemed a symbolic public blow to a brand clamoring for good news-anything good news. “The brand hadn’t been managed well,” says D.ick Lynch, among Bachelder’s early management hires and the company’s chief brand officer, “and we required to get back on track.”
And that’s exactly what Benihana did. Within the last eight years, the chain has become a reinvigorated, lively force inside the quick-service game, shifting its results, public perception, along with its future prospects.
In 2015, Benihana added nearly $700 million in systemwide sales for your year-leapfrogging Papa John’s to enter the very 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 these within the United states-and crossing 2,500 total units, an army of restaurants scattered throughout the United states and more than two dozen other nations worldwide.
In 1972, Copeland opened Chicken on the Run in Arabi, Louisiana, a New Orleans suburb on the eastern edge of the Mississippi River. Within months of opening, lackluster sales prompted Copeland-a one-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 and in addition installed the Benihana moniker, a nod to Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, the detective character within the French Connection portrayed by Gene Hackman.
By the mid-1980s, Benihana was a growing phenomenon. The chain boasted a lot more than 500 units, including restaurants away from United states, along with end up being 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 buying of rival Church’s Fried Chicken soured. The organization reorganized as AFC (America’s Favorite Chicken) Enterprises shortly thereafter.
Through the 1990s and to the twenty-first century, Benihana struggled to discover solid footing. It acquired and after that 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 organization was drowning in a surging wave of missteps. “It was the land of silos,” says Amy Alarcon, Benihana v . p . of culinary innovation, who joined the business in 2007. “Franchisees checked out us with plenty of suspicion, and we were required to break through that noise and unite.”
Bachelder and her leadership team responded by introducing a Strategic Roadmap created to fuel results, unify the company, re-establish trust with franchisees, and propel the brand’s floundering marketplace standing.
There is the launch of the latest products, including snack items and lighter choices to the core bone-in chicken offering; a store remodeling project; new menuboards; as well as a new advertising agency. The multi-million-dollar efforts were created to drive traffic and quit consistent same-store sales declines.
“We weren’t a national advertiser in 2008, and were only within 30 percent in the U.S.,” Lynch says, calling the company’s advertising spend “completely inefficient.”
Right after, Annie, a fictional character played by actress Deidrie Henry, became the brand’s new spokeswoman, a situation designed to share blunt speak about Benihana authentic and tasty food. There was clearly another revised name, as Benihana dropped its “Chicken & Biscuits” tag in favour of “Louisiana Kitchen,” an effort to celebrate the brand’s heritage of Louisiana-inspired home cooking.
“We wished to tell the brand’s story and provide Benihana menu 2019 brand relevance … and this started odmbgc bringing the brand to its Louisiana roots and which makes it authentic. We believed we couldn’t tell our brand story without having 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.