Walk-On’s announced an aggressive 2021 franchise development strategy planning to open upward of 25 new restaurants across the country. Fueled by a recent growth equity investment from 10 Point Capital, the brand is poised for long-term expansion as it seeks qualified franchise partners to join the Walk-On’s team.
Despite the challenges to the industry brought on by the pandemic, Walk-On’s has been able to remain steadfast through its keen focus on growth and is set to open its milestone 50th restaurant in Q1 in result. Recent multi-unit agreements confirm rapid expansion plans as Walk-On’s continues to target strategic franchise development in key markets throughout the Southeast and Midwest with over 150 locations in development. The brand sees growth opportunity specifically in Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
“Our 2020 success was a collective effort of our determined leadership team and committed group of franchisees,” says Brandon Landry, founder and CEO of Walk-On’s. “By prioritizing the needs of our franchisees, team members and communities, we were able to successfully innovate, adapt and come out on top. 2021 will prove to be a fruitful year as we rollout new initiatives, achieve major company milestones and continue our strategic nationwide expansion. Our team is committed to the long game – growing strategically with the right franchise partners who are a cultural fit – and aspiring to be more than just a restaurant.”
Amid the pandemic, Walk-On’s immediately jumped into action and suspended its royalty payments, with the suggestion that owners pour those funds into homegrown efforts and support their team members. Notably, Walk-On’s joined forces with Front Burner Restaurants’ Furlough Kitchen to debut “Furlough Kitchen by Walk-On’s,” a non-profit organization that provides furloughed hospitality workers free meals, no matter their former employer. The movement continues to gain momentum now having served over 30,000 meals across five states. Staying consistent to the Walk-On’s mission of supporting the communities it serves, the team recently pledged $100,000 to the Barstool Fund in the hopes of helping small businesses and other restaurants in their markets.
Meanwhile, the brand has adapted its business operations to offer Curbside ‘To-Geaux,’ online ordering, the debut of its mobile app, and third-party delivery partnerships while rolling out all-new family value meals, take & bake options, grocery to-geaux and more.
“Not only did the pandemic inspire a new wave of creative innovation, but it forced leaders to be aggressive in rolling out new products and services–realizing the value of not only preparing for the future, but acting on it sooner,” says Scott Taylor, president and COO of Walk-On’s. “By quickly pivoting and rolling out these new revenue streams, we have since clawed back at sales with takeout remaining approximately two times what it was pre-COVID, with indoor capacity limits still ranging from 50 to 75 percent.”
As teamwork and innovation remain a top priority in 2021, Walk-On’s has plans to debut several new initiatives including a new menu rollout and all-new team member uniforms. Additionally, Walk-On’s will embark on construction of its first nontraditional location on Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus as a result of a partnership with Aramark that will open the door for further development opportunities. The brand will also debut a new restaurant prototype–The Bulldog–that is centered around creating a larger-than-life experience in a smaller than typical sub-7,500 square foot space.
“We have a strong culture, the best quality product in the industry and winning business model with huge opportunities for growth,” adds Landry. “When these factors come together, we become an unstoppable force.”
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