Latest Revitalization Plan Brings Renewed Optimism to Roy Rogers Restaurants | Franchise News

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At its peak in 1990 there were 648 Roy Rogers locations. There are now just 41 units in seven Mid-Atlantic states, with Maryland home to the majority at 22.

Jim Plamondon and his family have so much history with Roy Rogers Restaurants it doesn’t take long for him to start waxing nostalgic about the legacy brand he grew up with and has seen through multitude changes, setbacks and restarts while retaining a small but loyal following.

It’s in our blood. It’s in our heart. Because of our incredibly loyal customers we feel we cannot let up and let them down,” said the co-president of the western-themed quick-service chain headquartered in Frederick, Maryland, and named after the late singer, actor and television host.

It was Plamondon’s father, Pete Sr., who was instrumental in launching the Roy Rogers Restaurants brand 55 years ago. With Plamondon’s oversight, Marriott Corp. opened the first Roy Rogers in Falls Church, Virginia, in 1968 and it quickly gained popularity nationwide. 

At its peak in 1990 there were 648 Roy Rogers locations, about 185 of them in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. market. That year the brand was sold to Hardee’s, which subsequently sold off packages of restaurants to other restaurant chains. There are now just 41 Roy Rogers units in seven Mid-Atlantic states, with Maryland home to the majority at 22.

Brothers Jim and Pete Plamondon Jr., who in the early 2000s bought the brand their father helped create, have spent the last two decades overseeing a number efforts to rejuvenate the brand. Past attempts by their Plamondon Hospitality Partners to grow the footprint, however, have either fallen short of expectations or failed to materialize.

But thanks to recent strategy changes and a key executive leadership hire, there is a sense of renewed optimism at Roy Rogers, which made a name for itself early on serving authentic “Old West” hamburgers and freshly made roast beef and chicken. Last year, the franchisor signed a new franchise agreement with One Holland Corp., also a franchisee of Dunkin’ and LaRosa’s Pizza, among others. One Holland announced in February the opening of its newest franchise location in Cleves, Ohio, the first of 10 new restaurants opening in the Greater Cincinnati metro market.

Other locations are slated for Hamilton, Butler and Clermont counties in southwest Ohio; Boone, Kenton, Campbell counties in northern Kentucky; and Dearborn County in southeast Indiana. 

According to local news reports, more than 50 people camped out overnight at the 3,400-square-foot Roy Rogers in Cleves for a chance to get some free food at the restaurant’s grand opening. The brand points to the Cleves store’s immediate success as proof of the restaurant’s cult following and staying power.

Roy Rogers’ latest revitalization plans includes bringing in industry veterans, forming partnerships with third-party vendors, launching new menu items with limited time offers, and creating an online store. The brand recently launched a partnership with DoorDash, rolled out a new store design, worked with SiteZeus to map future expansion territories and enhanced signature menu items.

Roy Rogers says it has already redesigned 10 locations, which now have new electronic menu boards and LED lighting to elevate the customer experience. Plamondon Hospitality Partners, whose portfolio of businesses also includes several Marriott and Hilton properties, is also funding plans to revamp two additional Roy Rogers locations next year.

Another recent update for the legacy brand is the introduction of a mobile app that allows its Royalist members access to the rewards program. Users can also order food, select favorite restaurants, map directions, invite friends and manage gift cards. 

Digital drive-thru service is also a big part of the revitalization efforts and will be implemented in additional locations, according to Plamondon, who confirmed that roast beef, hand-breaded chicken and burgers will remain the centerpiece of the Roy Rogers menu, along with the restaurants’ well-stocked free Fixin’s Bar. 

Among the limited time offers being added to the menu are a sourdough bacon cheeseburger, a beer-battered cod sandwich, a steak & cheese sandwich, a honey sriracha chicken sandwich and french toast sticks.

 “We are not McDonald’s or Burger King or Wendy’s, because that’s cheaper and faster food. We’re different. Our environment is more inviting than those other places. We’re about authentic food and a quality dining experience,” said Plamondon. “Because of our size, we are more of a destination location. We’re somewhere between fast food and a fast-casual dining experience.

While Plamondon Hospitality Partners is committed to maintaining Roy Rogers’ legacy, Adam Klaers, who was hired as executive vice president in December, is looking ahead, focused on attracting the next generation of customers. His extensive restaurant resume includes four years as director of operations for Chipotle, where he led nine district managers and more 65 locations, serving as regional director of operations for a 90-unit Great American Cookie Co. franchise group, and working as a multi-unit manager for Taco Bell.

Prior to joining Roy Rogers, Klaers was regional vice president of operations for TOMS King, where he managed daily operations for a Burger King franchise of 60-plus units. 

“I’ve been on both sides of franchising and I’d like to think I bring a little different perspective. My focus is on analyzing the data, and seeing what is working for us and what isn’t and making the right adjustments for profitability. As long as we make the system work for our franchisees, we’ll know we’re going to be successful,” Klaers said. 

Average unit volume for the top 25 percent of restaurants was $2.6 million in 2021; the overall average was $1.8 million. The investment cost for a newly constructed Roy Rogers restaurant ranges from about $1.2 million to $1.5 million, while the range for an inline location is $817,250 to $967,950. 

Asked about Roy Rogers’ growth plans, Plamondon quickly tempered any unrealistic expectations: “We’re at 41 restaurants now and I think we can get to 50 in the next year or so.”

“We often say our decision to buy the brand from Hardee’s was both emotional and a business decision. The business decision was to gain control of this brand that really Hardee’s wasn’t interested in. The emotional part of it was our father was with the brand since the start and helped create,” said Plamondon as he added, “I do believe our father would be proud of the steps we’ve taken.”

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