June 17, 2010 // Franchising.com // (Jackson, MS) --- Two franchise groups have announced they are bringing the fresh flavor of Newk's Express Café to the even fresher markets of Atlanta and Athens, Ga. John's Creek, Ga.-based GBDL Holdings, LLC and Atlanta, Ga.'s Many Glacier Holdings, LLC will be the first franchise companies to introduce the fast-casual restaurant concept to the state of Georgia. Both businesses are slated to open their first Newk's restaurants by spring 2011.
Created by the founders of McAlister's Deli – who pioneered the fast-casual restaurant concept – Newk's Express Café provides an express casual dining experience and features 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 by Newk's Bakery Company. A selection of wines by the glass and beer is also available.
In being among the first to introduce the Newk's concept to Georgia, Greg LaFoe, owner-operator of GBDL Holdings, LLC said he is looking at 15 possible locations in the target markets of Alpharetta and Athens, Ga. He looks at opening a minimum of three locations over the next five years as part of an aggressive expansion plan into the market.
"The Newk's Express Café concept is superior to other franchise concepts out there based on its use of fresh ingredients and the originality of its menu," LaFoe, 27, said on his decision to grow the business into the Georgia market.
Similarly, the father-son business team of Doug and Jay Medley has made public its plans to open as many as three locations over the next three years in the north and northwest Atlanta market through their self-helmed company, Many Glacier Holdings, LLC. Specifically, they are targeting the perimeter of the city, with attention to the Sandy Springs, Vinings and the eastern portion of Cobb County.
"Ideally, we are looking at obtaining more territories over the next eight to 10 years and open as many Newk's locations as the market will allow," Jay Medley, 41, said.
So far, the market prognosis for expansion in Georgia appears strong, said Chris Newcomb, CEO, founder and president of Newk's Franchise Company, LLC. He estimates that the Atlanta market and its metro area can accommodate as many as 15 to 20 additional locations over the next five years. Additional one-to-two store expansion opportunities also exist in the statewide markets of Columbus, Macon, Savannah and Augusta.
But by far, the most viable area for future growth remains the city of Atlanta. "Atlanta is the largest city in the south and one of the few places in the region that has not experienced the incredible food and level of service Newk's Express Café provides," Newcomb said on the company's market entry position. "The area is one of the fastest growing in the south and it's the biggest market where Newk's needs to be."
Since opening its first location in Oxford, Miss. in 2004, Newk's Express Cafés have expanded their presence to seven states, mainly across the U.S. southeast. There are currently more than 28 restaurants in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. More than 20 of the restaurants are franchise owned. Six franchised locations were opened in 2009 and 10 new restaurants are expected to open in 2010. Projections call for 25 restaurants to open in each of the next two years.
Newk's has also steady strengthened its earning prowess over the past two years. Same-store-sales for Newk's Express Café increased 2.6 percent in 2009; the opening of six Newk's Express Café restaurants in 2009 increased system wide annual sales to more than $43 million, an increase of almost 44 percent from the previous year. Through the first 22 weeks of 2010, same-store-sales were up more than 9 percent over the same time period in 2009.
Newcomb says expansion into the Atlanta market—and the state of the Georgia as a whole—is a pivotal piece of Newk's growth strategies. He is confident it will lead to other opportunities with multi-unit development partners who have the financial capability to open a minimum of three restaurants within a five-year period. Markets targeted for future expansion include Houston; Oklahoma City; Tulsa, Okla.; Chicago; Louisville, Ky.; Orlando; Cincinnati and Richmond, Va.
Jay Medley says that service, speed and quality of product put forth by Newk's were enough to convince both he and his dad to go into business.
"We typically invest in products and stocks that we like ourselves," the co-owner/operator explained. "When we found out the Georgia market was wide open, we welcomed the opportunity to enter it. While it's very competitive, there has never been a more exciting time to launch a stellar business concept such as a Newk's Express Café."