COLUMBUS, OHIO – Fans of Bob Evans Restaurants may soon find the chain’s farmhouse fare in malls, hospitals, airports and corporate cafeterias.
The casual dining chain is partnering with Warren, Ohio-based A.V.I. Food Systems, Inc. to develop and license Bob Evans Express in non-traditional venues for on-the-go consumers. The menu will include both self-serve and prepared-to-order items, with a limited selection of signature dishes from the full-service restaurant’s menu, including sausage biscuits and gravy, slow-roasted turkey and the Wildfire chicken salad. The 500-square-feet units will be managed and operated by A.V.I.
“We view this as an exciting opportunity to innovate with Bob Evans to penetrate non-traditional venues with new product offerings,” said Steven Davis, chairman and chief executive officer, during an Aug. 20 earnings call with analysts. “Of course, lessons learned at Bob Evans Express will be incorporated where appropriate with our traditional food service locations.”
The first Bob Evans Express location opened this month at a BMW manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, S.C., featuring a grab-and-go case with pre-made salads, parfaits, fruit cups and desserts.
“I wouldn’t say we’re very dense in the state of South Carolina, so think of it as not only is it a way for us to penetrate our core markets, but it’s a great way to get into new markets at a much lower capital expenditure,” Mr. Davis said.
Bob Evans’ corporate campus in New Albany, Ohio, is set in October to open the second site, which will serve as an on-site learning laboratory while the company tweaks the concept.
From fast-food to full-service, restaurants across the industry are experimenting with different concepts in an effort to snap up the success enjoyed by the fast-casual segment through the economic recession.
While such casual dining chains as Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar and Red Lobster recently have begun testing express lunch options in select markets, quick-service restaurants, including Wendy’s Co., are unveiling premium menu items and upgraded interiors. KFC, a division of Yum! Brands, Inc., this month began testing an upmarket restaurant called KFC Eleven near its Louisville headquarters. The revamped eatery drops Colonel Sanders and bone-in chicken in favor of updated side dishes, rice bowls, flatbread sandwiches, salads and boneless Original Recipe chicken.
As for Bob Evans, the express venture brings the brand to new locations and customers.“This partnership offers a one-two punch in terms of brand development,” Mr. Davis said. “We will grow the Bob Evans brand through strategic partnerships such as this, in alternative venues, alongside the traditional growth of our company-owned full-service restaurants.”