Editor's Note: A previous version of this story has been updated to include the correct size of Bojangles' University of North Carolina–Greensboro location.
Restaurant brands are learning to love on-campus locations as growth vehicles and testing grounds for new operations or service techniques.
Nation’s Restaurant News recently spoke with movers in the segment, including Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ’n Biscuits, Denny’s, Einstein Bros., Moe’s Southwest Grill and Beef O Brady’s to share lessons learned.
Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ’n Biscuits opened its first on-campus restaurant Monday at the University of North Carolina–Greensboro. First-week sales surpassed $50,000 for a unit of about 2,800 square feet, said Eric Newman, executive vice president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Bojangles’. That kind of performance makes higher-education locations “a valuable tool” for accelerating the brand’s already rapid growth, he said.
“[Non-traditional growth] can bolster what you already have and increase market share in penetrated markets, or be a spearhead to introduce more people to the brand,” Newman said. “It’s a great addition to reach people you’re not reaching normally at certain dayparts.”
For instance, he said, Bojangles’ can drive strong sales at lunch from students at the on-campus unit without cannibalizing sales from its three locations in Greensboro near the university.
“You’re basically serving a contained market not leaving campus for mealtimes during school hours,” Newman said.
Bojangles’ also operates on-site restaurants at Charlotte’s convention center, football stadium, transit center and airport, as well as in Union Station in Washington, D.C.
Last week, Denny’s reported that this year franchisees would open five restaurants, rather than the 10 it had previously planned, on college campuses, where the chain operates both food court restaurants and fast-casual counter-service units.
Denny’s chief executive John Miller said the chain plans to grow on campuses, but said the timing of new-store development complicates plans. On campuses, Denny’s is dealing with two new types of franchisees: universities and contract foodservice organizations, like Sodexo or Compass.