Bojangles’ Best Yet

Bojangles’ opens a new concept restaurant in South Carolina and embarks on a chain-wide refresh.

Interview by Katie Lee

When you are a 40-year-old franchise, you might show some wear and tear. Not so at Bojangles’. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based chain looks brand new with the opening of a new prototype in Greenville, South Carolina, on January 11, 2017. Retail & Restaurant Facility Business recently interviewed Randy Icard, Bojangles’ vice president of construction and development, to learn more.

R&R: In which Southeastern states is Bojangles’ located? Are you looking to expand outside this region?

Randy Icard: Our goal is to continue to penetrate our brand presence in states where we already operate, which include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., while gradually expanding our footprint into additional neighboring states.

boj170103 102 high resR&R: Tell me about the history of the company and why 2017, with the new prototype, will be a key year.

Icard: Bojangles’ was founded in 1977 by two men with tremendous restaurant industry experience. Jack Fulk was a successful franchisee at another brand, and he saw an opportunity to create a new brand centered around what at the time was a unique signature item: the buttermilk biscuit. Richard Thomas, also a successful restaurateur, helped develop a flavorful, Cajun-inspired fried chicken recipe to complement the made-from-scratch biscuits that have been the hallmark of Bojangles’ since that first restaurant opened in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The company grew rapidly those first few years, and quickly became a Southern icon with thousands of fanatical fans across the Southeast.

Bojangles’ went public in 2015, and our new design prototype reflects our determination to stay true to our heritage while appealing to new customers. We’ve created a warmer, more welcoming environment, but our beloved biscuits, tea, chicken and fixin’s are still the hero.

R&R: Please discuss the new design prototype. 

Icard: The first new concept restaurant opened in Greenville, South Carolina, on January 11, 2017, and is dramatically different from any prior generation of Bojangles’ restaurant. The exterior features a distinctive, contemporary design that combines sophisticated materials like brick, tile and steel canopies, with bold graphics that celebrate our brand’s heritage. Soft lighting and landscaped planters alongside the building and in the drive-thru lane give the restaurant a warm, welcoming feel.

boj170103 142 high resInside we really focused on enhancing all three areas of the restaurant: front, back and middle of the house. We improved operational efficiencies in the kitchen and were able to move some operations out of our guests’ sightlines to make for a more pleasant environment. We upgraded the dining room with a variety of seating options including high-top community tables, and we’ve added multi-device charging stations and free Wi-Fi.

But the biggest change is middle of the house, where we’ve completely redesigned the entire guest experience. We removed the queue and made several visual enhancements, like increased use of glass and replacing steel warming trays with colored crocks to present our food in a more aesthetically pleasing fashion.  And the focal point is what we’re calling the ‘Biscuit Theater,’ a “through the glass” viewing area where guests can witness biscuits being made fresh every 20 minutes — all day, every day — by a Bojangles’ Master Biscuit Maker.

R&R: What is the remodel rollout schedule for other existing Bojangles’ locations? Three in Charlotte will be remodeled next year, according to a press release. How many restaurants total will be remodeled in 2017?

Icard: We have just begun a scrape and rebuild utilizing the new design concept at one of our signature locations in our hometown of Charlotte, and we have three remodels scheduled to begin there in the first quarter of 2017. We’re still finalizing our remodel plans for this year and beyond.

R&R: Tell me about Tesser, the San Francisco-based design firm. Had you worked with them in the past?

Icard: We had never worked with Tesser previously, but obviously they have a tremendous reputation for leading transformational design projects in our industry. The best thing I can say about Tesser is that they’re more than just talented designers; they really worked hard to understand our business and interpreted our vision into a concept that pays tribute to Bojangles’ heritage while fully embracing the brand’s future.

R&R: In general, how often does Bojangles’ refresh its look?

Icard: This is the fourth distinct evolution of our main restaurant design concept, so on average we have updated our look every 10 years or so.

R&R: In the back of the house, is there any new technology being implemented that improves daily operations in the restaurants?

Icard: The back-of-the-house highlights include specially designed chicken-holding equipment that will increase quality and efficiency, and specially designed holding and serving equipment for chicken tenders and potato products. Also, our “T-line” where sandwich, biscuit and salad assembly takes place has been designed to increase team member efficiency while also giving them more counter space to operate.

pap161221 331 high resR&R: What kind of feedback are you getting from franchisees about the new look?

Icard: We involved several franchisees in the process from the inception of the design. Franchisees we’ve shared this concept with love its contemporary look, the enhanced operational efficiencies, and the welcoming environment we’ve created for our guests.

R&R: What is the new typical square footage of a Bojangles’ restaurant?

Icard: The new prototype is approximately 3,900 square feet, which is fairly standard for the new concept and similar to our current restaurant layout. But we have redistributed some of the space to enhance operational efficiency and improve the experience for our customers.

R&R: Are there any “green” elements about the restaurant’s design and construction?

Icard: With the exception of some decorative lighting we almost exclusively used LED lighting for the exterior, kitchen and customer areas. We also employed wide use of ENERGY STAR-rated equipment in the kitchen, as well as a tankless hot water system.

R&R: How does Bojangles’ handle repair and maintenance?

Icard: We have an in-house facilities department with 24 technicians supervised by two facility managers. Our facilities team schedules preventive maintenance, dispatches outside vendors to assist with needed repairs, assists with turning over new restaurants to our operations team and much more.

R&R: Do you use local or national vendors?

Icard: We use a combination. A number of different factors are considered. Quality of work is ultimately the deciding factor in determining who we choose to work with.

R&R: What goals have you set for your team, short term and long? Five years from now?

Icard: Our company mission statement is: “Win the hearts of our customers by delivering quality and service all day, every day.”

It’s important for my team to follow our mission statement and live by our core values, each and every day. Our development and facilities teams should always strive to give our store team members the tools they need to succeed. It is always important to keep in mind that our managers, biscuit makers and other store team members are on the front line, each and every day — they are our customers. Their friendly service and our great quality food have been cornerstones of our brand since we opened our first store in 1977, and it’s up to all of us to ensure they have everything they need to be successful today, tomorrow and in the years to come.

 

—   This article originally appeared as the cover story of the February 2017 issue of Retail & Restaurant Facility Business magazine. Email the editor at katie@francemediainc.com.