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East Coast Wings + Grill explores fast-casual size, service system as concept store evolves

Full-service chain tests smaller-box size, fast-casual attributes for evolution of future restaurants

East Coast Wings + Grill plans to move forward with a new concept store that utilizes that breaks from the full-service, casual-dining layout it has used in the past. The casual-dining chain is seeing success in a smaller-footprint store, such as the 2.0 model restaurant tested in Clemmons, N.C. This type of concept store reduces development costs by $100,000 while generating a pace for $1.65M in AUV (annual unit volume) and earnings before interest and taxes of 16.5%.

The re-engineered prototype, ECW 2.0, costs 30% less to build and is 27% smaller. This 2.0 full-service model maintains or exceeds the volume of larger stores. In fact, full-service restaurants converted to the 2.0 model produced 12.5% more in gross sales.

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As with the Clemmons location, which was relocated by East Coast Wings + Grill to a smaller footprint store last September, the potential of this new prototype remains high. The smaller-box store, with 2,290 square feet, produced results that were worth pursuing at greater scale, and with a layout was soon to be tested in a fast-casual format.

“With a 13-month proofing period of the Clemmons’ Unit Level Economics, we were able to sustain the casual dining feel but with a fast-casual box size and some hybrid operations,” Ballas said. “Expanding our data, we’re currently testing a refined Clemmons model in a total fast casual operations model at our existing campus location serving the University of North Carolina in Greensboro (UNCG) and its immediate market under new leadership. Looking ahead to expansion outside of our current Southeastern markets, we have the data to further execute a condensed ECW+G model with a limited fan favorite menu approach, designed to reduce development and labor cost while sustaining our core philosophy of driving unit level economics.”

The UNCG campus site, which served as a second beta location, was converted into a fast-casual unit with a to-go counter, carryout options and smaller menu. East Coast Grill + Wings have expectations that this unit could produce the same or more sales than the condensed casual-dining 2.0 version.

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A 23-year fast-casual restaurant industry veteran, who had served as a multi-unit supervisor for a large Taco Bell multi-unit operator throughout the Triad area and the Southeast, also saw the potential as he was attracted to a reduced-footprint store that better aligned with current trends, while creating efficiencies. Thus, franchisee Hamid Taheri took over the Tate Street Greensboro campus location.

Added Ballas, “This restructured model addresses long-haul real estate concerns, streamlines kitchen equipment cost, runs with less labor and has fast casual benefits, while operating at a reduced full-service level. When we go to market in 2022, qualified franchise partners will have two popular opportunities, larger volume FSR and proofed fast casual units that can be scattered throughout a region, averaging around 2,300 to 3,000 square feet.”

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