'Humble Pudding' Wasn't Bitter for Popeyes, CEO Says
Suppose you spent thousands on a design firm to remodel your restaurants, tested the new look at multiple stores in the city where your brand was founded, and invited franchisees down for the big reveal party—and the franchisees hated it.
That’s what Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes, faced a couple of years ago, she told an International Franchise Association audience at her keynote address today.
Franchise owners thought the colors were too loud, the design was “too weird,” the furnishings looked cheap and it all cost too much—this after months and months of work on the new look.
So they did what seems like the impossible. “The design team ditched it all, and did a complete start over,” she says. “Two years later—this is where we landed” she said, showing pictures of the gorgeous new design, featuring elements referring to Popeyes’ Cajun roots, “and no one was disappointed. And best of all, it’s the lowest cost remodel in QSR,” she adds, referring to quick-service restaurants.
It’s the rare person—or corporation—who can admit a mistake, but Bachelder says it’s part of her team’s commitment to considering the franchisee their No. 1 customer.
“I find it important to teach my team that our first responsibility is to get it right for our owners,” she said in response to a question from the audience. “If we have to choke on humble pudding once in a while, so be it.”
The approach is working. “One of the things that happens when franchisees are happy—they move fast,” Bachelder says about owners who are adopting the new remodel willingly. One ‘zee boasts on a video, “I’ve got a store with sales up 46 percent” since his remodel.
Profits at Popeyes restaurants are up an average 70 percent over the past six years; Popeyes stock price has risen 400 percent since Bachelder took charge.
The performance and its telling drew enthusiastic response from attendees at the International Franchise Association 54th Annual Convention in New Orleans, Feb. 22-25.