Apparently, offering a free slice of pie on Mondays isn’t enough to attract the modern customer anymore. As a 64-year-old classic diner chain, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery is strategically investing in consumer-facing and operations technology to enliven the brand, which spans 276 restaurants in 32 states and Canada.
First up is Perkins’ latest prototype, which features a trimmed-down square footage, carry-out windows, and a redesigned parking lot to simplify off-premises pick ups. Though Perkins has been known for its classic diner charm since its 1958 inception, a redesigned interior touts earth tones, a subway tile backsplash, and contemporary light fixtures that give the restaurant a refreshed, modernized look.
The updated format—which offers flexible buildout options and labor-saving technology—also lowers development costs for franchise owners, boosting investment returns. In 2021, the average net sales of the top 10 percent of the franchise system totaled approximately $2.9 million.
Earlier this year, Perkins began rolling out handheld tablets so servers can send orders to the kitchen instantly, speeding up the ordering process for both guests and staff members. Mobile credit card readers are also being installed, enabling guests to swipe credit or debit cards at their tables versus paying at the front of the restaurant in the brand’s traditional check-out process.
To capitalize off an increased stream of off-premises orders, Perkins recently launched “Bakery by Perkins,” a bakery-only delivery platform. Guests craving a caramel apple pie or slice of New York cheesecake can order their Perkins favorites directly on third-party delivery apps, including DoorDash, Uber Eats, and GrubHub.
Perkins’ investment in off-premises is already paying off. Since its launch, Bakery by Perkins has driven incremental bakery transactions for the brand, increasing bakery sales by an average of 15 percent.
Additionally, Perkins recently incorporated famed virtual dining brand MrBeast Burger into 88 existing restaurants, with plans to be in more than 100 by the end of the year. MrBeast Burger came to life in November 2020, resulting from a partnership between Virtual Dining Concepts and Jimmy Donaldson, a 23-year-old YouTube creator. The virtual American burger brand has since partnered with full-service restaurants such as Buca di Beppo, Bertucci’s, and Bravo Italian Kitchens. This offers another source of revenue for Perkins franchisees, increasing the brand’s value proposition.
Perkins and sister concept Huddle House signed commitments for 32 restaurants in 2021, their best development performance in years—which included seven current operators bolstering their portfolios across nine states. Huddle House acquired Perkins out of bankruptcy in September 2019 under the Ascent Hospitality Management umbrella.
“Due to the prototype announcement happening this year, we have two prototypes of the Perkins locations up and running, with hopes of many more in the years to come,” says Peter Ortiz, chief development officer for Ascent Hospitality Management.
Jeff Warne, former president and CEO of Perkins since 2012, recently left to join California Pizza Kitchen as CEO. Michael Abt, CEO of Ascent, now leads both Perkins and Huddle House.