“We’re pretty darn proud of it,” Taylor says. “I think that all comes from just being out there, being present, doing things in the market that other people weren’t doing. We changed our model—we have drive-thrus now, we’ve got incredible curbside, you can pre-order on the app. All of the technology things that everybody’s scrambling to do, we had a lot of it already queued, so it wasn’t hard to flip the switch and put those things out there.”
Growth has been altered during the pandemic, but only slightly. Taylor points to a couple of situations in which area developers were forced to shut down and preserve cash to ensure they knew what was coming. The process was back on track after a couple of months, and only a few stores were pushed to 2021 when Walk-On’s expects to open 22 to 25 stores.
The chain has recently celebrated openings in Texas, Florida, and Tennessee and signed a three-unit deal in Mississippi. Taylor says Walk-On’s wants to expand at a pace where it can have valuable growth, because at a certain level, too many stores per year could result in an incongruence between quantity and quality.
Taylor notes that 10 Point Capital understands that, and with its help, Walk-On’s long-term objectives become more sustainable.
“I think it’s the long play. Whether we executed the transaction with 10 Point or not, we were going to open 22 to 25 next year and then probably the same in 2022,” Taylor says. “So where they really help us is organizing resources around doing it beyond that as well as looking at these opportunities for different types of growth … The things that we’re not 100 percent fluent on, they’re going to bring that expertise to the table.”
He explains that so far, growth has been organic; Walk-On’s has done very little in terms of intentionally advertising its franchising program. A big focus going forward will be placing the opportunity in front of the right potential franchisees in the right areas. Ideally, Walk-On’s wants to continue growth in contiguous areas and expand from there.
Even as the brand soars toward what appears to be more of a “star scholarship player” status, Taylor says the restaurant will never forget where it came from. In a time when many expected the brand to hide in a corner, the COO says Walk-On’s decided to release a strong message into the marketplace.
Walk-On’s doesn’t miss opportunities, not even in a crisis. That’s part of the DNA.
“The Walk-On’s mentality is a lot about how we define our culture,” Taylor says. “I think it is humility, it’s understanding your role on the team, it’s team before self. That’s how we operate our company. That’s the culture inside of our four walls in the restaurant.”