“I have loved Bob & Edith’s Diner ever since I moved to this area 30 years ago,” Rowe said. “The brand has real soul—there really was a Bob and an Edith, and the family is still building on their legacy. They love feeding people in D.C., and now they want to feed the world. This is the most pervasive food in America and attracts people from all demographics.”
“The business side of Bob & Edith’s is genius—small, low cost, no frills, mostly conversion restaurants doing more than $2 million in sales in around 2,000 square feet,” he continued. “The costs are amazing, and the menu is widely appealing. It’s a simple operation, and they have mastered off-premise sales better than most fast-casual concepts.”
Bob & Edith’s progress through the pandemic hasn’t been without its struggles. Initially, the diner had to lay off roughly 160 workers. The stores attempted to remain open for off-premises, but one month into it, a manager contracted COVID. The company intermingles staff among stores, so they closed all the restaurants for 17 days to conduct a deep cleaning and to ensure all staff was healthy and isolated for the proper amount of time.
The brand persevered with new technology, updated packaging, a digital-friendly menu, and third-party delivery partners. Chris estimates that Bob & Edith’s is capturing approximately 75 percent of pre-COVID sales. A year ago, off-premises accounted for about 7 to 10 percent of sales, but now delivery is about 30 percent of the business. The restaurant partnered with a marketing company to help them relay its message to consumers.
“It’s the way of the future,” Chris says. “People love getting delivery, and if you do it right and you take care of them, and you serve with the right containers and you check each other and you make sure they’re getting the product they want, I think it’s going to be a large part of the business going forward. I think the world is changing. I think in-house will still be lined out the door like it always has been, I just think that our business is going to increase.”
Chris says Bob & Edith’s has been approached many times about franchising, but the family has always turned the opportunity down because they feared the gamble and potential loss of control.
But the restaurant trusts Fransmart to help them overcome those challenges. Chris notes the first wave of growth will target Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. After that, the diner wants to head down the East Coast and make its way to Los Angeles. There’s also dreams of Dubai, China, and other corners of the world.
Bob & Edith’s thinks the brand can go wherever they want to take it.
“It’s exciting because aside from Waffle House, there isn’t another national diner brand. No one has done anything new in this space in decades, and the market is always looking for the next thing,” Rowe said. “I’m here to say that Bob & Edith’s Diner is the next big thing.”