Sunny Street Café is an emerging breakfast and lunch concept based in Columbus, OH. They focus on offering fresh, unique food in a warm and inviting atmosphere. A leader in the popular “all-day-breakfast” category, they currently operate 14 stores in Ohio, Texas and Missouri, with another coming online in early December in Weatherford, TX. Sunny Street Café is poised for big things in 2013 and beyond, having recently signed a 40 store development agreement for the state of Texas, as well as current development taking place in Western Canada.
Scott Moffitt, President of Sunny Street Café, has over 25 years of restaurant and franchise development experience. He answered some questions for us about menu trends, product development and the company’s expansion.
What does a consumer look for when dining out, and how have these wants changed? How has Sunny Street Café evolved with it’s offerings to meet these demands?
Value continues to be a major motivator in people’s dining decisions. However, unique offerings are what win a guest back. People are looking for a menu that provides both items they are familiar with, as well as unique dishes or reimangined favorites.
How are you able to anticipate this?
Keeping in tune with culinary trends and the menu innovations of our peers is important. What we’ve found, though, is our customer base is extremely loyal and anxious to give us feedback on what they would like to see on our menu. We call them our Brand Ambassadors, and they are the first group we engage when testing new products or making decisions directionally with our menu.
What’s the best way to solicit this feedback?
Communicating on a variety of mediums is very effective. Social media and CRM tools are obviously an immediate and inexpensive way to get feedback. We also do a considerable amount of in-store surveys and testing. Last year we surveyed across our system for 90 days in all 14 stores. This information was paramount in developing our new in-store menu that recently launched.
What did the research tell you, and how is that reflected in your new menu?
People are looking for more variety, especially at lunch. We received some great direction and ended up bolstering our sandwich offerings, bringing in unique breads and sauces to deliver some truly memorable items. Our salads also got a refresh, as we’ve expanded the line, adding spinach and fresh greens to our lettuce mix, and now serving grilled flatbread with every salad entrée.
What has the continued interest in the breakfast/lunch daypart done for your business?
Breakfast/Lunch is still a very underserved segment, and we’re beginning to capitalize on that need. By delivering fresh, delicious food fast and providing a bright spot for friends and family within each community, we’ve positioned ourselves well. The interest in our segment has simply made more people aware of the great opportunity to own a Sunny Street Café . We’ve recently signed a 40 store development deal for the state of Texas. We’ve also gone international, beginning development on 50 stores in Western Canada.
As a smaller chain, how do you compete with some of your larger competitors?
One of the first things we cover with a new franchisee during orientation is really becoming immersed in their neighborhood. We want to enter a community and become the go-to place for breakfast and lunch. A place where people will run into their neighbors and the staff knows guests by their first name. The décor is reflective of the community. Our marketing focus is not with big media buying in mind; rather, supporting the local schools, teams, and other local civic groups is a high priority.
Utilizing our strong network of vendor partners is another way to level the playing field, so to speak. From menu development and merchandising to inventory management and HR support, we’ve been fortunate to have some fantastic vendors that have been able to provide us great guidance as well as world-class resources.
What are some of your upcoming initiatives?
We are opening a new restaurant in Weatherford, TX in early December. This will be our fourth store in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market, which we will continue to expand in. We also have a restaurant in Hunstville, Alabama looking to open in early 2013, as well as our first store in Edmonton, Alberta.
In terms of menu development, we are wrapping another wildly successful promotion of our Pumpkin Spice Pancakes. They’re a seasonal item only available in October and November. We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from our guests, and almost developed a cult-like following. Pumpkin pancakes will be followed by a Winter Favorites menu, which features our new line of homemade soups, as well as Pot Roast Hash, Maple Glaze Pancakes, a Turkey Cranberry Melt, and the introduction of Sweet Potato Fries.
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More information is available at www.sunnystreetcafe.com.