Q&A: Chris Newcomb, Co-Founder, President and CEO of Newk’s Express Café

Newk's Express Café

Jackson, Mississippi-based Newk’s Express Café has grown rapidly over the last eight years, opening 15 restaurants in 2011 and on track to open 15 this year. Newk’s provides an express casual dining experience in a refreshing, stylish atmosphere with an emphasis on freshness, flavor and quick service with a smile. The menu includes a variety of made-to-order choices including fresh-tossed salads, oven-baked sandwiches, California-style pizzas, made-from-scratch soups and homemade cakes baked fresh by Newk’s Bakery Company.

Chris Newcomb is one of the founders of Newk’s Express Café.  As president and CEO, he is responsible for implementing the strategic goals and objectives of the company.

When and why did you start Newk’s Express Café?

Newk’s Express Café was founded in 2004 with myself, my father, Don Newcomb, and Debra Bryson. We were focused on creating a fast-casual concept that was also culinary driven. We wanted to be more than just a sandwich shop so we created a menu featuring fresh, made-from-scratch ingredients. By utilizing our combined experience, we established a cutting-edge concept that offers delicious products available for comfortable in-restaurant dining, grab-and-go or convenient pick-up, as well as catering.

What makes Newk’s different from other fast casual restaurants?

Most—if not all—of our menu items are made fresh from scratch in each restaurant. For example, salad dressings are made from scratch, chicken, steak and portabella mushrooms are grilled to perfection in the restaurant, soups are made from family recipes, all of our high quality meats, cheeses, greens and produce are never pre-cut or pre-packaged and croutons are seasoned and baked in the kitchen. At Newk’s Express Café, we grill, slice, cut, dice and prepare our fresh ingredients to enhance the flavor of our menu entrees. We also offer homemade cakes baked fresh by Newk’s Bakery Company. This culinary-driven approach, unique flavor profile, freshest of ingredients and attention to the details are points of differentiation that our guests can taste.

Chris Newcomb, Co-Founder, President and CEO of Newk's Express CaféHow has Newk’s grown since it was founded?

Newk’s recently opened its 50th restaurant and has expanded to more than 11 states. More than 40 of the existing restaurants are franchise owned.  We have also seen regular increases in same-store-sales and systemwide sales.

What are your plans for the future?

We plan to continue to grow through multi-unit development partners with the financial capability to open a minimum of three restaurants. We are targeting markets like Houston; Oklahoma City; Tulsa, Okla.; Louisville, Ky.; Orlando; Cincinnati and Richmond, Va.

Who is your ideal franchisee?

We are always seeking franchise owners who have the financial capability, as well as the operational leadership and drive to open a minimum of three restaurants. We also look for restaurant experience in at least one of the partners that will provide the restaurant leadership as they develop their respective market(s). This helps ensure that each location will be successful.

What impact has the cost of food had on your business and how have you handled that?

Through our purchasing program, we have been able to manage our cost of goods sold (COGS) so that we have only seen a minimal increase. At this time, the increase has not made any significant impact to our bottom line; however, with the looming increases to come, we are looking into raising certain menu prices for the latter part of 2012.

For Newk’s Express Café franchise information, please visit http://www.newkscafe.com/franchise-information/the-concept.