For franchisees of casual dining brand Quaker Steak & Lube, the catchy mantra, “There’s always something happening at The Lube®,” has never rung more true.
The classic American restaurant franchise, acquired in 2016 by Westlake, Ohio-based heavyweight TravelCenters of America, is reinvigorated for the fast track to expand nationwide through franchising.
Under the leadership of TravelCenter’s John Ponczoch, TA Restaurant Group, which operates and franchises Quaker Steak & Lube, has improved the infrastructure, strengthened and streamlined operations, and revamped the food and beverage menu of the fun family restaurant chain. Franchisees, such as regional multi-brand powerhouse Doherty Enterprises Inc., are bullish on the motor-themed brand. Doherty, which operates seven concepts, owns three Quaker Steak & Lube locations in New Jersey under Lube It Up, LLC.
“New food, new innovation and ideation is a big part of the future success of the brand,” says Kurt Pahlitzsch, of Lube It Up, LLC. “To know you have the support of a company as large as TA is very important to us, as well as the rest of the franchise community that is involved with Quaker Steak & Lube.”
Founded over 40 years ago in a renovated filling station in Pennsylvania, Quaker Steak & Lube is known for its award-winning wings and sauces, high-octane events and entertainment — and a loyal fan following.
Pahlitzsch knew the chain was a winning choice to expand his Allendale, New Jersey company’s portfolio the first time he experienced The Lube’s vibrant atmosphere on a scouting trip five years ago.
“It was just a great vibe,” recalls Pahlitzsch, an industry veteran. “Just good fun and good food. It was a great fit for us, because we love that the people that work for us have fun. We don’t want them to think they are working. We want them to enjoy where they are and have the ability to become one with the guest.”
The QSL logo is a familiar sight in New Jersey, where Lube It Up, LLC’s restaurants in Brick, Edison and Pohatcong “go out of our way to be a big part of our community,” notes Pahlitzsch. Quaker Steak & Lube also sponsors local championship dragster racer Joseph Cirillo, racecar driver Shawna Ingraham, and is the lead sponsor of Rutgers University Football, where fans also can enjoy a live taping of the weekly show of Scarlet Knights head coach Chris Ash at the Edison location.
With more the 50 restaurants in 14 states, Quaker Steak & Lube’s road to becoming a national brand includes the development of a Lube Express concept that it looks to roll out in the parent company’s travel centers. The company also will focus on boosting multiple revenue stream opportunities for franchisees from food, to events and retail.
Pahlitzsch sees TA’s experience as a multi-unit, multi-brand franchisee and expertise as a franchisor, as instrumental for the franchise growth of Quaker Steak & Lube.
“To measure success, you need a strong franchisor, as well as a strong franchisee to work in unison and be able to have constant and consistent conversation — both good and bad,” he says.
Solid franchisees like Lube It Up, LLC, who are committed to The Lube’s unique culture, represent the future of the brand, notes John Ponczoch, senior vice president of food operations for TravelCenters of America and head of TA Restaurant Group, a division of TravelCenters of America.
“When you have a strong franchisee that is a very good operator, understands the importance of a great customer experience, is creative, executes the brand’s vision, and is embedded in the community, it really sets us up for success as a chain,” Ponczoch says. “We believe that is a great model for us.”
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