Nathan’s Famous is looking to re-open their restaurants across the country. Senior Vice President of Nathan’s Restaurants, James Walker, speaks to the franchise’s plans for re-opening, including how the brand has been communicating with franchisees and how he feels the restaurant industry will look for the foreseeable future.
What has Nathan’s strategy been during the Pandemic?
First and foremost, we’ve focused on the “people” that we serve, our guests, employees, franchisees, and the communities we’re in. Ensuring that they’re safe and cared for. After that we’ve continued the transformation activities that were already in motion prior to COVID-19, including our brand transformation around technology, menu, and off premises.
How has the brand been communicating with franchisees during this time? What are their concerns?
While I believe all of our franchisees have been impacted by COVID-19, they haven’t all been impacted or affected in the same way. We’ve tried to be more personal and communicate with them one on one so we understand how we can support them in a way that is most helpful to their specific situation. Our franchisees are concerned with their livelihood, and the well-being of their employees, we’ve tried to ensure we’re fully up to speed on all programs that might benefit our franchisees, and remain a resource to them.
What is the reopening strategy?
We want to go above and beyond with regards to our focus on the “health, hygiene, and safety” of our guests and employees, and even went so far as to rewrite our mission statement to include that phrase. We use the local, and federal re-opening guidelines as a starting point, and then look to how we can improve upon those. While we’re anxious to reopen, we will only do so when we are comfortable that our guests and employee’s safety and comfort is assured.
What policies and procedures are being put in place to ensure guest and staff safety?
In our corporate locations we were quick to add plexiglass partitions to separate employees and guests, added social distancing stickers, and sanitizer stations. We have instituted employee procedures including face masks, pre-shift temperature checks, and additional access to PPE.
Moving forward, what are some challenges you expect the brand and franchisees will face?
Prior to COVID-19 guests used quality, value, and convenience as decision making criteria in deciding which brands to frequent, I believe now “trust and safety” will be added to their decision-making set.
Nathan’s was on a major franchise drive prior to the pandemic. Have those plans been altered?
We saw a pause in our development in the early weeks of the COVID-19 “stay at home” orders, however, the past few weeks we’ve seen the partners we were working with prior to COVID-19 come back ready to get moving once again, and a new inflow of interested potential franchise owners.
Hot dogs are rising in popularity. Has Nathan’s been feeling and fueling this trend?
I think we’ve been benefitting greatly. Nathan’s Famous is known for a best in class hot dog, and other craveable American comfort food like our NY Cheesesteak with Pat LaFrieda, guests want the food they know and love, food that tastes great, from a brand they know and trust, and Nathan’s provides all of those conveniently.
What do you anticipate the new few months/next year will look like for the restaurant industry?
I believe QSR will rebound most quickly, and those brands that focus on the “health, hygiene, and safety” of their guests and employees will build both trust and sales.
Nathan’s is a Russell 2000 Company that currently distributes its products in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and 10 foreign countries through its restaurant system, foodservice sales programs and product licensing activities. Last year, over 700 million Nathan’s Famous hot dogs were sold. Nathan’s was ranked #22 on the Forbes 2014 list of the Best Small Companies in America and was listed as the Best Small Company in New York State in October 2013. For additional information about Nathan’s, please visit www.nathansfamous.com.