Early this summer in Surf City, N.C., Bojangles' opened its 500th restaurant after 35 years in business. Somehow Bojangles' had become both a mature brand and a growth brand at the same time. Some of its strongest growth in that 35-year history occurred in the last four years, in the most difficult economy that anyone can remember, opening a new restaurant every 10 days. The momentum appears to continue with almost $800 million in system sales forecast this year and $1 billion annual system sales as a soon-to-be-reached milestone. Someone asked, "Is there something we can do to grow in the economic doldrums?"
So it reminds me of the story about the physicist, the chemist and the economist stranded on a desert island when a can of beans washed up in the surf without a can opener. The physicist said, "We need to concentrate the rays of the sun to puncture the tin." The chemist said, "No, we need to leave it in the surf to let the salty elements corrode the can until we can break it open." However, the economist said "Gentlemen you've got it all wrong first, we need to assume a can opener." Much like the economist, let's assume that the process starts with a brand that is based on a good economic model--a brand that is able to produce top line sales that make a bottom line profit more likely. Even a good economy can't help a concept that is flawed or that fails more than it succeeds. Reflecting on these difficult years, several things seem to have made a difference as the brand has reached for new milestones. Consider these six steps.
Identify those opportunities created by current events and utilize them. In the early days of economic troubles, Bojangles' CEO made an announcement: "We know that there is a recession out there, but we've decided not to participate." This required having the courage to take opportunities that were newly presented. For example, greater selectively was introduced in hiring. There are many good prospects out there, and the company decided that it wanted more than its share of them so that when conditions improve, the company would have a greater esprit de corp and a more solid base. This returned tangible dividends in sharply reduced turnover, better service and more effective training. The time of labor shortages is not the time to revamp hiring. Moreover, a determination was made--no layoffs, no hiring or wage freezes, combined with continued wage increases, bonuses and growth. Bojangles' became a special place...