Checkers Redesign Boosts Sales, Traffic In Test

Checkers Drive-In Restaurants' new store layout — the first in the company's 25-year history — has helped increase sales and customer traffic in test units, according to company officials.

Checkers initially tested the new design in its hometown of Mobile, Ala., starting in November 2011. The company built a redesigned restaurant on a lot across from an older unit to measure how the new design impacted sales when location essentially remained constant.

The results were staggering, according to Jennifer Durham, vice president of development for Checkers and Rally's Restaurants: The restaurant brought in about $750,000 in sales before the redesign, and and sales jumped to $1.2 million with the new model.

If the redesign works as planned, she said, the rest of the 10 new locations built throughout the U.S. during the past year should see same-store sales bumps, too. The company currently has plans to redesign seven more company-owned locations during 2013.

The 10 company-owned locations built during the past year served as testing ground for the new design before Checkers introduced it to franchisees three weeks ago during the company's convention in Las Vegas, Durham said.

"By all accounts for us, this was a home run," she said, adding that the new units, at about $500,000 each, are also cheaper to build. "But we needed to prove these metrics were solid before we introduced them to franchisees."

Hallmarks of the new layout include a single drive thru — a departure from Checkers' signature double drive thru — as well as a larger outdoor seating area and an updated checkerboard pattern. The company's signature "wings" on either side of the restaurant's exterior will remain because they offer a visual cue to consumers looking for a place to eat, Durham said.

"We started from a blank piece of paper," Durham said of the design, adding that the new look has been in the works since late 2010. "We really wanted to give ourselves an opportunity to think outside the box."

The new single-lane design has actually been quicker for service than the double-lane version, according to Durham. "When we evolved our thinking to include new building formats, we saw a bump in franchisees who are interested in us," she said. "Our existing franchisees are really beginning to be excited again about opening new restaurants."

The redesigned elements will be available for existing locations to add on as franchisees desire, she said. However, the new design is mainly intended for newly built freestanding Checkers and Rally's locations.

On Oct. 26-27, Checkers will build a real-size replica of the newly designed store near the Fox News offices in New York City for network's Fox & Friends television show, Durham noted. "We're really excited to launch it on a national stage," she said.

The new store design signals that Checkers and Rally's are ready to grow, said Durham. However, she added, "What's nice about [the design] is that it still feels very much like Checkers," she said. "It hasn't departed from who we are as a brand."

Checkers currently operates about 770 restaurant locations, 300 of which are company owned.

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