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COVID-19 isn’t cooling growth at Dave’s Hot Chicken | Navigating COVID-19

COVID-19 has stalled the growth plans of restaurants all over the world, but Los Angeles-based Dave’s Hot Chicken isn’t in that category. Since launching its franchise plan in October, the 3-year-old, pop-up concept has 100 brick-and-mortar locations in the pipeline. That’s double the number that CEO Bill Phelps had hoped the three-unit chain would hit by year’s end.

https://www.fastcasual.com/
Dave’s Hot Chicken CEO Bob Phelps

« We are embracing this momentum, and though we are all in a tough time, the interest and commitment we are seeing in the brand is incredible, » he said in an interview with FastCasual. « While COVID-19 has definitely been a part of our conversations with leads, it’s more focused on what we have been doing to support our operating restaurants and what steps we are taking moving forward. »Phelps, who has set a new goal of reaching 200 committed units by the end of 2020, said he has been « pleasantly surprised » by sales during the last two months.

« In the second half of March, our sales were trending down 20%, but starting in April, we saw significant growth in our sales as we transitioned quickly to online ordering and the large third-party delivery apps in our market, » he said.

Sales are now flat vs. pre-covid numbers, which Phelps called « outstanding, » adding that sales volume is double what the average fast casual concept is seeing now.

« We have a strong business model, and our existing locations performed at a high level before and during COVID-19, » he said. « We’ve made the conscious decision to keep things simple when it comes to our menu, and that is working in our favor. We do it well and it has grabbed the attention of high-quality investors. I also believe that because our product travels so well, it stays hot and juicy for up to an hour, it’s the perfect fast casual product for takeout and delivery. »

Although Phelps and his team are focused on growth, they are also working to support existing restaurants and team members.

« We have implemented additional sanitation and health protocols to help keep our employees and fans healthy, » Phelps said. « We are proud to be giving our employees a $2/hour ‘thank you’ bonus and have rolled out PathSpot, a new technology designed to help ensure proper hand-washing techniques are being used. »

Employees wash their hands and place them under the scanner. If the scanner detects any traces of potential contamination, the employee must wash their hands again.

https://www.fastcasual.com/
Dave’s Hot Chicken added PathSpot, a technology designed to help ensure proper hand-washing techniques.

« This type of proactive action isn’t going to stop, » Phelps said. « We will follow all state guidelines when it

comes to reopening, and we are prepared to modify how we operate by moving tables and limiting occupancy. But we are also thinking more long-term by implementing additional technology, adding in walk-up windows to existing locations and building future locations with a drive-thru. »

All Dave’s locations are in California, a state that has not yet allowed restaurants to reopen for dine-in service, but Phelps said the company is preparing for that day.

« Back in March, before dining room closures went into effect, we took precautions by having employees wear masks and started to work on implementing additional precautions, » Phelps said. « For us, our employees’ safety is number one. If they are safe, we’ll be able to better protect our customers.

We are focused on looking ahead. »

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