Krystal is in expansion mode after closing about 40 underperforming locations during the downturn, planning to have about 760 corporate and franchise units during the next five years. Marketing Vice President Brad Wahl shares some insight into how the 79-year-old quickservice chain is changing with the times.
Tell me about the new store prototype. What’s different? Is the prototype more attractive to prospective franchisees?
The prototype is not for prospective franchisees as much as it is to update the look and feel of the brand. We want to continue to improve the look of our restaurant design to be inviting to our consumers and be an overall reflection of the brand.
Given Krystal’s history and the loyalty the chain has built for its signature small burgers, how important is product development to the chain’s growth?
A lot of our product development revolves around our small signature burger and how we can add tastes and flavors to the craveability of the product and provide additional opportunities for people to visit us. We continue to look at product opportunities to fill holes in the need states of our consumers. Recently, we successfully rolled out our Gametime Wings as a full-time menu item, and this year we rolled out a dessert item, our strawberry shortcake. These were key opportunities that we pinpointed that added to our overall menu in a positive way.
Are products introduced by Krystal bringing in customers who have never visited before, driving up average sales and visits among existing guests, or both? What items have proved particularly popular?
We focus primarily on increasing the frequency of existing Krystal customers by giving them additional reasons to come to us — additional flavors of existing products — and also a reason to increase check by offering products such as strawberry shortcake or additional flavors of our MilkQuake line, such as eggnog and Reese’s.
Are your customers demanding healthier menu items? Are some of the new products aimed at guests who are trying to eat healthier?
Our customers come to us because of the craveability of our signature products. We continue to provide those products they love mainly because we already offer good-quality products, such as our 100% Angus burger and our Chik, which is a whole muscle patty — 100% all-white, whole chicken breast trimmed to our smaller size.
Krystal has served breakfast since the beginning. What part does breakfast play in overall sales?
Breakfast is our heritage and continues to be a day part that is key for us. We continue to drive awareness of the fact that you can order Krystal’s at breakfast and went a step further by introducing the Krystal with egg and cheese this year. Another new breakfast product is our omelet breakfast sandwich, and we also continue to focus on our lineup of Scramblers — portable breakfast in a bowl, with grits, egg, cheese and a choice of sausage or bacon. We also rolled out an omelet version to continue to bring awareness to this product line.