Deal Tracker: Newk’s food, culture a fit for multi-brand ‘zee
Newk’s Eatery “checked all the boxes” for David Weeks as he researched a third franchise brand to add to a portfolio that already included Barberitos and Dunkin’, with two criteria standing out. “No. 1, the food, that’s the most important one to us,” said Weeks, who will open two Newk’s restaurants in the Athens market, about 70 miles outside Atlanta in northeast Georgia. “I wanted a concept where the food is made in house and it’s not all shipped in from some commissary.”
No. 2, said Weeks, “is a brand that fits with our culture.” As he’s grown Barberitos to five locations and Dunkin’ to seven, Weeks said he’s worked to “maintain that mom-and-pop” ownership feel with employees and felt Newk’s took a similar approach with its franchisees.
“Other franchisees had nothing but great things to say about them,” said Weeks of his validation process that involved talking with several Newk’s operators, many of them also multi-brand franchisees. “They were all really excited about Newk’s and very encouraged by the financials that Newk’s puts out.”
A fast-casual restaurant serving sandwiches, salads and pizzas prepared in open kitchens, Jackson, Mississippi-based Newk’s has 120-plus restaurants in 16 states, though the closest to Athens, also home to the University of Georgia, is 45 minutes away in Lawrenceville. Weeks said there’s strong brand awareness of Newk’s and he believes it stands out from competitors Panera and Jason’s Deli, both of which have one location in Athens. “The Athens market can definitely handle more, and obviously we think Newk’s is the best of these.”
The addition of Newk’s is also a way for Weeks to provide more opportunities for his roughly 200 employees, some of whom have been with him for more than 10 years. These “seasoned managers” will help open Weeks’ first Newk’s later this year and another in 2020, which “will allow other folks to step up and fill their shoes,” he said.
Pizzas and salads are prominent on the menu at Newk’s Eatery.
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