Walk-On Sports Bistreaux Find Success By Doing More In Less Space

When the pandemic closed indoor restaurants, Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux CEO Brandon Landry was determined to stop the company from reacting in a “reflex” way that would drive the brand away from its heart.

“For us, it was completely the opposite,” Landry said. “When they shut down the world in 2020, we sat down and said, ‘What got us to this point? Let’s double down on that. And that’s our culture.

For Walk-On’s, a Louisiana-flavored concept focused on sports and great food, that meant its franchisees had to make sure they were able to support both team members and their communities. For a time, franchise fees were suspended.

“Whatever little dollars our franchisees received, we wanted them to take care of their teams and take care of their communities,” Landry said. “By doing this, I think it brought us back to our goal of bringing people together and being more than a restaurant.”

Like most full-service concepts in 2020, Walk-On has had to pivot to takeout, of course. But Walk-On didn’t cut the menu or slow growth.

And those efforts continued into 2021, giving the brand a strong year of recovery, with U.S. sales up 16.5% to $176.8 million and average unit volumes up 6 percent. 4% to $3.1 million. The number of units reached 56 at the end of 2021, an increase of 24%.

Opening restaurants at a time of limited capacity during this time was also telling. When a new restaurant opened in Texas at a time when restaurants could only allow 50% capacity, for example, it turned out to be one of the best opening weeks the chain had. never seen in terms of sales, Landry said.

“So that made us kinda scratch our heads and go, ‘Man, do we really need these big buildings? “, Did he declare.

Company officials then developed a new prototype concept, dubbed “Bulldog”, which reduced the building then typically 8,000 square feet to around 7,000 square feet, while expanding the space to support more takeaway meals.

“It has everything that makes the ‘wow’ of a Walk-On. It still has all the brand elements. It just reduced the size of the footprint, and we noticed we could still get rounds and efficiencies,” he said.

This decision reduced construction costs by approximately 25% in some markets. The first Bulldog design location to open in Lakeland, Fla. last year is a sales leader for the chain. Landry said the company is still working on finding even more efficiency with the design.

As restaurants fully reopen through 2021, Walk-On’s has also focused on its offsite business.

Take-out food — which made up only about 10% of sales before the pandemic — has settled at about 15% of sales today, but Landry sees an opportunity for growth there. “We would like to exceed 20% of our takeout sales, so there are a lot of things our team is currently working on in design and operations,” he said.

Walk-On’s recently opened its 65e Florida location. The almost entirely franchised brand (there are three company-owned units) plans to reach 14 states by the end of 2022, including new markets like Arizona and Las Vegas. In 2023, Walk-On’s expects to reach five more states with approximately 25-28 restaurant openings.

The next step could be the internationalization of the brand. The team plans to travel to Dubai this year to meet potential franchisees in that part of the world.

In 2021, labor was certainly a challenge as the brand grew, but that seems to be easing, Landry said. that 65e unit in Florida attracted 2,200 applicants for the 150 to 200 jobs there.

Landry credits the company’s culture as well as Walk-On’s Blue Chip program, which establishes a clear career path for restaurant workers to move into management or even become franchise operators.

It’s a culture that makes people want to be part of the team.

“It’s that walker mentality,” Landry said. “You play for true love [of the game].”

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