Like countless restaurant operators, Shari’s Management Corporation, the parent company to restaurant brands Shari’s, Coco’s and Carrows, has been navigating an ever-changing landscape during the COVID crisis further complicated by recent devastating West Coast fires.
Through partnerships with vendors and landlords and focusing on innovation, technology and investment in management and systems, the company has been able to shift and stay nimble, allowing to roll with changes and continue to succeed despite challenges.
The company’s efforts have been paying off; August marked the third month in a row Shari’s was the number one restaurant in the Pacific Northwest according to KnappTrack rankings. In July, Shari’s was number one in the Mountain region and number one in California. KnappTrack is an independent tracking system for monthly sales and guest counts for comparable restaurants.
According to Shari’s Management Corporation CEO Sam Borgese, the company’s brands are performing well due to several factors: Early initiatives taken in March of this year at the first signs of the COVID pandemic; acceleration of its Business Transformation Plan that was already in process; and the business-critical support of its employees, vendors and landlords.
“With restaurants near the initial COVID outbreak in Seattle, we immediately understood the potential negative impact on our business. Our Executive Leadership Team, led by the exceptional efforts of our operations leadership, moved quickly to reset our business plan for 2020, reduce our G&A expenses and lean into a communication plan that shared our early concerns with our vendors and landlords,” says Borgese. Borgese believes established close partnerships with vendors and landlords provided invaluable support throughout this pandemic, extending through impacts of recent wildfires in the company’s core markets.
Accelerating its Business Transformation Plan included lowering its G&A costs while retaining and attracting top restaurant industry management talent. The company decentralized its current corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon to include new offices in Carlsbad, California and Dallas, Texas.
The planned office decentralization was proved extremely timely when it came to reducing costs under the negative business impact of COVID.
“The decentralization of our offices allows us to add the leadership talent available in the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego and Dallas markets to our seasoned Beaverton teams, taking advantage of the synergies available from major restaurant regional hubs while reducing our direct facility costs by nearly 50 percent,” adds Borgese.
“COVID shifted our focus, but fortunately we were forward thinking before the pandemic and were able to pivot effectively. Over the past few months, our team has proven that remote teams and the use of integrated technology to streamline online ordering and operations work extremely well, and now will continue to maximize efficiencies by re-thinking the traditional corporate office structure,” he says. The corporate office and finance and accounting functions will remain in Oregon with executive, human resources and marketing in Carlsbad, and with purchasing, IT and legal focused in Dallas.
As the COVID crisis unfolded, Shari’s has made several strategic moves to position itself for success both in the current scenario and moving forward in a time of uncertainty:
Growing an already strong off-premise business significantly by redesigning everything from menu to packaging to pick-up staging spots and overall off-premise execution.
Launching the first of several virtual brands with Coco’s Famous Hamburgers – currently running exclusively through DoorDash out of all Shari’s and Coco’s locations.
Developing new menus highlighting existing items consumers have demanded from each brand, while also introducing new menu items featuring healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner items; including the introduction of plant-based offerings for consumers who are food source sensitive, such as a new line of breakfast sandwiches featuring Impossible Sausage, with Shari’s becoming the first family casual concept to roll the Impossible Sausage out across all locations.
Launching an updated Shari’s Rewards App, featuring new ‘tier levels’ that guests can unlock based on purchase amounts and revealing increasingly valuable rewards such as free birthday pie slices, 2x points during birthday month, discounts on whole pies, free birthday entrees and a free birthday meal for two.