Arby's Is Back! How a 52-Year-Old Brand Turned Itself Around
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Arby's Is Back! How a 52-Year-Old Brand Turned Itself Around

 Arby's Is Back! How a 52-Year-Old Brand Turned Itself Around

Arby's has come a long way in the past few years. Over that time, the legacy brand has launched a series of innovative, meat-focused menu items, including the sizzling Brown Sugar Bacon sandwich lineup, the most successful LTO platform of 2015. It was so tempting that we even created a Vegetarian Support Hotline for our non-carnivorous guests who were lured by the sandwich's "meaty goodness."

This past year, we opened 69 new restaurants system-wide - including 60 new restaurants in the U.S., the highest number since 2008 - and completed more than 175 remodels. In December, we were proud to reopen our doors in New York City after nearly a decade, just a few steps from Times Square. Adweek said it best: "If you haven't been inside an Arby's lately, you probably wouldn't recognize the place."

This is what gets our guests in the door: a meat-focused menu, authentic marketing activations, and new restaurant design innovations. But what keeps guests coming back time and again? Here are the three lesser-known efforts that helped Arby's rebuild its brand and thrive in the QSR industry.

We equip

In 2013, Arby's instituted "Brand Champ" training for all our team members. This past year more than 70,000 employees (company and franchise) across the system experienced this key training initiative. Brand Champ is a half-day interactive learning and sharing experience where entire restaurant teams get together offsite. Our teams discuss thoughtful and creative ways to bring the brand to life and to "own" their role as brand ambassadors. In the spirit of personal development, we also spend significant time teaching them to be "Champions of Their Lives" through the power of goal-setting, while focusing on an important Arby's core value: Dream Big.

We empower

Empowering our team members has brought big wins to Arby's. For example, the idea behind a recent LTO, the King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe sandwich, came directly from a front-line crew member in a franchised restaurant. The employee submitted his recipe for the sandwich through our "Hey Chef Neville!" internal sourcing program for culinary ideas. He was recognized on stage at our Worldwide Franchise Convention and received a scholarship award for his passion and creativity.

The centerpiece of our empowerment strategy is our new "We Make It Right" guest experience program where every team member can honor a guest request or address an issue without having to ask their manager. We've coupled that with a new guest experience measurement program to help us quickly identify areas of opportunity or reach out to our guests... often before they return home. This approach has been adopted throughout the entire system and is already helping to raise service levels by providing team members with the power and courage to "make it right."

We engage

When CEO Paul Brown took the helm in 2013, he immediately went on a cross-country listening tour with franchisees and team members. His first objective was to find out what and how we felt about ourselves. The information gleaned from those meetings helped identify some short- and long-term priorities and set the direction for moving forward.

Shortly thereafter, we fielded our first detailed and system-wide franchisee satisfaction survey to pinpoint our opportunities. The results were humbling, but we built a plan to systematically address all the major issues. In three short years we significantly improved those satisfaction scores and earned the prestigious designation of "World Class Franchise" from the Franchise Research Institute.

To turn a sharp ear to our guests, Arby's invested in state-of-the-art social media monitoring technology to help us respond to guests in real time. This has allowed us to not only join the social media conversation, but often to be the focus of the conversation... in a very unapologetic but authentic way. Helping to identify issues and provide consumer outreach, our social media team acts as yet another ambassador for our guests and for our brand.


Equip... Empower... Engage. The results speak for themselves. We are very proud to have achieved 21 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth and 12 consecutive quarters of QSR industry outperformance.

We will continue to press forward and to redefine our brand. With new products, great advertising, and new restaurants, we are on track to generate $4 billion in sales by 2018. But most critically, we will never lose focus on our most important asset: our people, and the outstanding service our guests have come to know and expect.

John Bowie is chief operating officer of Arby's Restaurant Group.

Published: June 7th, 2016

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