CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Quick-service restaurant chain Bojangles is eyeing travel centers as its next area of growth.
The brand announced in July that it planned to open 20 new restaurants in Las Vegas, but as chicken offerings begin to saturate the market, it plans to approach expansion strategies more thoughtfully as it expands outside of the Southeast, reported Chain Store Age, a sister publication of Convenience Store News.
Bojangles is partnering with LVP, an entity of LV Petroleum, to develop its first set of unconventional restaurants inside 10 TravelCenters of America Inc. franchise locations in western markets.
LVP will lead the project with its investment partner Kingsbarn Realty Capital serving as developer. The locations will open in 2024.
"Since our top priority is connecting to guests through food, we've developed streamlined processes to make our locations accessible, convenient and portable, while giving guests the Bojangles' experience they know and love," said Jim Canonn, chief development officer at Bojangles.
The Charlotte-based company is developing streamlined avenues to deliver the best customer experience as part of its nationwide expansion strategy, Cannon told Chain Store Age. This includes a simplified menu with new items, a new building design and a new staffing model. In addition to travel centers, Bojangles is exploring nontraditional growth into locations like airports and college campuses.
Nontraditional venues are attractive to franchises like Bojangles for several reasons. First, these locations typically experience high volume of foot traffic with people constantly coming and going. "Meanwhile, the convenience of consumers finding what they need in one place is also a significant selling point," Cannon said. "For example, travel centers attract people from various backgrounds, regions and demographics — allowing us to test different products or services on a cross-section of consumers."
In some cases, nontraditional venues have limited competition, enabling businesses to establish a unique presence and stand out in the market, he added.
A typical nontraditional Bojangles location ranges from a travel plaza endcap of 3,200 square feet to a small airport location of 900 square feet. The brand requires a certain minimum footage based on the desired menu and customer demand, but certain alterations can be made in some cases.
"Moving in the nontraditional direction pushes us to think more strategically and efficiently," Cannon said. "We ask ourselves questions like: What are the most recognizable attributes of our traditional stores that our consumers know and love? How do we get the best of the menu and kitchen design into a smaller venue?"
He noted that streamlining and adapting operational processes into nontraditional spaces helps mold the experience for the traveling consumer in a convenient, on-the-go atmosphere.
"We're dedicated to implementing the use of digital menu boards and modifying the menu experience to the needs of a non-traditional facility," he said. "Along with implementing back-office systems, we have new labor management systems in development to set our franchisees up for continued success, and operating with the best labor force."
The Bojangles app has also been updated for a more streamlined mobile ordering experience. The brand's digital enhancements Bojangles make necessary optimizations in price or menu in real-time.
The chain is currently working with multiple airport authorities and additional travel center operators for future nontraditional locations.
Bojangles, which has both franchised and company-owned locations, currently operates approximately 800 restaurants — 280 of which are company-owned.
Convenience Store News and Chain Store Age are properties of EnsembleIQ.