Quaker Steak & Lube will ring in the New Year poised to accelerate strategic growth as the fun-family casual dining brand hits the road with a fresh focus for nationwide expansion.
“Quaker Steak & Lube is firing on all fronts,” says Bruce Lane, newly named vice president of operations and franchise services. “We are looking at 2018 as a breakout year for us.”
Lane, who joined the 43-year-old Westlake, Ohio-based brand earlier this year, has been instrumental in the ongoing plans to strengthen and reinvigorate Quaker Steak & Lube, which was acquired in 2016 by TravelCenters of America. In his expanding role, the industry veteran will lead the brand's internal operations and franchise teams, while continuing to spearhead efforts to propel Quaker Steak & Lube's national footprint through franchising.
Backed by the resources of TravelCenters of America and TA Restaurant Group, Quaker Steak & Lube has been busy repositioning and retooling the processes and infrastructure of the iconic motor-themed brand.
“In the past two months we have increased our margins, and reduced our costs at the restaurant level by almost five percent,” notes Lane. “We are rolling those initiatives out to our franchisees as we speak.”
And there is much more in store for the beloved restaurant chain, known for its award-winning food, a slew of sauces, and festive atmospheres. As part of the overall rebranding efforts, Quaker Steak & Lube will introduce a new look in 2018 and offer more flexible build-out options for franchisees.
The company is finalizing prototypes for its evolving restaurant designs, and will open the first “Lube Express” — a quick-serve, counter service concept, with the new look in 2018. The goal, says Lane, is to boost the street presence of the restaurant with a more modern interior and exterior feel, while giving a nod to the signature ambiance of motor-themed decor and gas station memorabilia lining the walls and ceilings.
“We have struck a balance between where the history is, and the future of the brand, and what resonates with Millennials specifically, as well as all current, and future guests,” notes Lane.
Quaker Steak & Lube also looks to spur aggressive expansion with a renewed franchise focus on non-traditional build-out alternatives. A more nimble approach will allow for aggressive growth in stadiums, college campuses, kiosks, airports, strip centers, and other freestanding sites, Lane says.
“We know what we need space wise to produce quality food in our kitchens, and everything else is flexible,” he says. “We can go as big as we want or as small as necessary.”
The brand will ring in the New Year with the debut of the first Lube Express in January within the TravelCenters of America truck stop in Gary, Indiana. The company predicts it will be a great growth vehicle to help fill out markets through area development agreements.
With more than 50 restaurants in 14 states, Quaker Steak & Lube is initially seeking to expand organically from the Midwest through the South with experienced multi-unit casual dining or sports bar operators. Lane says with the enhanced operational pieces in place, and the backing of a Fortune 500 parent company, the future is bright for the brand as a winning investment with staying power.
“Our focuses are on long-term profitability and sustainability of our franchisees — that is what separates us from the others,” notes Lane. “We are not going to be sold by a capital investment company in five years. We do not need to sell 500 franchise agreements this year to be able to keep our doors open. We are a solid company, with years of experience and hundreds of restaurants. We operate as a franchisee and a franchisor. All of those factors add up.”
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