After success throughout the pandemic with its new COVID-19 operational model, East Coast Wings + Grill (ECW+G) announced a franchise expansion plan that focuses squarely on the Southeast, where it thrives with established brand awareness.
Overnight, at the outset of stay-at-home orders, the nearly 40-unit franchise shifted from operating as a full-service restaurant to a carryout, delivery and curbside model. When shelter-in-place orders relaxed, the brand swiftly transitioned back to a manageable dine-in experience. Despite state-mandated capacity limitations, East Coast Wings + Grill’s units showed manageable bottom-line figures in April and May, with June dine-in sales remaining stable compared to June of last year and take-out and delivery sales continuing to climb.
“The three pillars of our brand’s success are sustainable unit-level economics (ULE), hyper-efficient operations and a data-driven philosophy,” says Sam Ballas, CEO of East Coast Wings + Grill. “The pandemic was momentous with regards to how we operate today and in the near future. With the refined model, we’re on track for sustainable EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes), even in today’s environment, and we’ve developed contingency plans designed to help us withstand any changing circumstances.”
To continue system growth, the company is focusing on franchise expansion throughout North Carolina, Virginia, Eastern Tennessee, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. From single-unit operators to experienced restaurant franchise owners interested in conversion, ECW+G has strategically identified cities, populations and customer profiles that match the brand’s offerings.
The brand’s prudent pre-coronavirus planning and relying on its core structured discipline all contributed to its posture for the next phase of regional growth. Before even approaching the idea of franchise system growth, the company carefully evaluated every aspect of existing operations and took substantial measures to ensure franchisees were supported and operating efficiently.
In addition to swiftly implementing COVID-19 safety and sanitation standards, in early March, ECW+G released refined labor models, provided franchisees with multiple whitepapers and a break-even analysis program built to operate in the new normal. To further assist franchisees, the brand provided royalty abatements, waived ad fund contributions and provided template letters franchisees could send landlords for rent relief and banks for loan deferments.
Another step ECW+G took to increase franchisee support was to promote Whitney Mann to VP of Field Operations. Mann, who has worked with Ballas and East Coast Wings + Grill for the past 16 years from server to store manager, corp. training coordinator, brand field consultant and brand data analytics, was the most equipped secret weapon to keep the system moving forward at the speed required during the pandemic.
“After working with her for years, I had one of those epiphanies where I realized – Whitney is ready for the executive level. She has absorbed every aspect of the brand, created a solid track record of successful project management and platform innovations, and our franchisees have embraced her as a brand leader. With her leadership I am sure ECW + G will shine brighter going forward,” Ballas adds.