Each building type—including the casual-dining versions—facilitate drive-thru, carryout, and third-party delivery. Prior to COVID, sales were split 50/50 between off-premises and dine-in, but now two-thirds of business come outside the four walls. Because drive-thru requires more space, the chain will likely look more into suburban locales, but Ryback says that doesn’t mean the brand will disregard urban opportunities.
“One of the things that makes Jim ‘N Nick’s unique and exciting to grow is that we have multi-revenue channels, which is not something that you see every day,” the restaurant leader says.” And in casual dining, most casual diners don't have drive-thru and most are just trying to build their off-premise business where it's been part of Jim ‘N Nick’s’ DNA for decades."
“[The drive-thru] is something that we've had for over two decades," he continues. "We had the benefit of that amount of time to fine tune our menu and our ability to execute that channel [drive-thru] in addition to traditional takeout and dining. And then about a year ago we layered in third-party delivery. It's been a part of the brand forever, and we continue to strive to get better at it every day.”
In addition to finding the proper real estate, Ryback also understands the need for high-quality management to run each store efficiently, and Jim ‘N Nick’s is already making the requisite investments. The company recently rolled out a managing partner program in which general managers are able to earn a “top-tier” premium salary, see their bonus potential increase by 25 percent, and contribute to long-term incentives through the performance of their restaurant. Other notable perks include car and dining allowances.
For hourly workers, Jim’ N Nicks offers up to $20 per hour for various positions including dishwashers, pit masters, cooks, servers, and cashiers.
The push for benefits comes amid a lengthy job crunch throughout the restaurant industry. The U.S. saw a record 10.9 million job openings to end August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a good portion represented by accommodation and food services. Full-service brands are working with 6.2 fewer employees in the back of the house and 2.8 fewer in the front of the house compared to 2019, according to Black Box Workforce Intelligence.
While the managing partner program is only 60 days old, Ryback says it has already created much interest internally and externally.
“We've been fortunate through this labor crunch and the pandemic to have really low management turnover, and I attribute that to the culture of the company,” Ryback says. “I think Jim ‘N Nicks has always been a company that genuinely cares about people and genuinely treat people with respect and genuinely wants to help people grow and achieve everything that they want to achieve in their careers. I think because of that we've been fortunate with management turnover.”
To ensure growth is effective and responsible, Jim 'N Nicks will check all the boxes that any other restaurant would when entering a new neighborhood, but Ryback and his team also recognize that execution comes down to hiring, training, and paying better than average.
As long as the brand sticks to those values, expansion will continue as scheduled, the CEO notes.
“We feel we've got the brand where we want, the operations of the company where we want, our financial performance [where we want], and most importantly, the team,” Ryback says.