Youth, Energy, And Fresh Ideas

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

"Part of the branding is defending it, supporting it, pitching it, training it constantly." Which Wich is a fast-casual concept. By filling the gap in the sandwich segment with superior products, Which Wich will prosper and achieve a level of happiness and a profitable future. Which Wich has a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee on all of its products. Genghis Grill was on the cutting edge when it first opened. Now you appear to be there again with Which Wich. Where do your ideas come from? What do you see that the rest of the pack does not? My ideas come from constant research and a lot of day-dreaming and asking "What if?" Ideas can come from anywhere: conversation, travel, media, etc. I love imagining and then creating the different elements in a way that they all fuse together perfectly. I think I am also good at spotting industry trends before they hit. I'm like a surfer constantly looking for the next big wave. I have chosen an industry that is fun, an industry that lets us eat, drink, and be social. It helps that I truly enjoy my job and the freedom to explore new ideas. There are millions of great ideas out there, but you have to take risks to make things happen. It's better than waking up when you are 80 and wishing that you had done things differently. That is the kind of "what if" in life that I want to avoid. Who, in your opinion, has this brand building thing down pat? I am a fan of the Cheesecake Factory and of what David Overton and his team have accomplished. They took a family business of selling cheesecakes and turned it into a restaurant powerhouse that may never be rivaled in our lifetime. They stick to what works and repeat it. And it is more than cheesecake�just take a look at their people and training and you will see that they really care. Who is not a fan of In-N-Out Burger? The Snyder family has done an excellent job, maybe the best ever of sticking to their sacred cows for over 50 years. I would pack up and work for this organization in a New York second. They are really just getting started. Then there is Antonio Swadd, formerly of Wingstop, which he recently sold. Antonio has taught me a lot about branding and focus. People laughed at him when he said he was going to only focus on wings. Now they take him seriously when he says that his current focus is serving pizza to Latino communities with his latest concept, Pizza Patron. And who could use a little help in that area? Honestly, everyone needs to keep striving to make their brands better. You can never afford to stop. The world that we live in is constantly changing and you have to stay competitive. There is always a new concept around the corner that will take the industry by storm. Jeff Sinelli, CEO of Sinelli Concepts and creator of Genghis Grill, has been building brands since his mid-20s. In an attempt to figure out what makes this guy tick, how he comes up with new ideas, and how he stays ahead of the game, QSR sat down with him. Don't let the youthful looks fool you. Before he hit 30, Texas restaurateur Jeff Sinelli was already considered an up-and-comer on the Dallas restaurant/bar scene. He spent most of his twenties opening various entertainment and eating establishments throughout the Metroplex, including a biker bar, a few downtown watering holes, and a nightclub�or two. As the son of a Detroit club owner, he comes by his affinity, and his magic touch, honestly. In 1998, Sinelli came up with the concept that made him an up-and-comer on the national scene�a Mongolian eatery in Dallas's popular Lower Greenville district. He transformed the storefront and menu of what was once Genghis Cahn's Mongolian Feast into a new concept he dubbed Genghis Grill. He made the menu more middle-America friendly, implanted a franchisee program. By 2002, the concept was on Franchise Times's list of "20 To Watch" and noted as one of the hottest spots in Dallas by Maxim. Sinelli knows how to build a brand. That much is obvious. Never one to remain static, Sinelli sold Genghis Grill to Dallas-based Consilient Restaurants after the group offered him a deal he couldn't refuse. Now he's turned his attention to developing new quick-serve brand, a fast-casual sandwich shop called Which Wich. Sandwiches, says Sinelli, is the one segment in the industry with the greatest potential for new growth. It is his intention to create the next generation of the sandwich shop. A longtime admirer of Sinelli's work and his philosophy on brand building, QSR set out to find out more about Which Wich on the eve of the concept's first store opening. You are a young man, at age 35, in a mature industry. How do you explain your early success with Genghis Grill and continued success with subsequent projects? I'm self-diagnosed ADD, and it translates into my entrepreneurial style. I don't tend to do things by the textbook, and when I first started in the restaurant business, it was all from the hip. You hear the statistics that nine out of 10 restaurants won't be around after the first year. I think that's not true�over 50 percent make it. To avoid the graveyard, I don't focus on the competition; I take an isolationist theory and do my own thing and don't worry about who's behind or in front of me. In a synthesis sort of way, I come up with ideas, but once the idea is formed and developed, we put ourselves in our own little box, form the concept, and try to create different things that others don't. We're not trying to keep up with the Joneses, we're trying to be unique and different. I think that's where the success comes from. Many in foodservice talk about the difference between a brand and a chain. What's your take on the subject? A concept is a brand first, and (hopefully) a chain second. When I built Genghis Grill, my focus was not to build a chain, but rather to build the best Mongolian barbecue. Because it was such an attractive brand on many levels, we had high customer demand. And because the demand was there, I chose to grow the brand into a chain. However, you can have a great brand even if you only have one store. Why is brand development so important to long-term success in this business? A great brand normally translates into long-term success. A brand makes a concept memorable, it appeals to customers' senses and emotions. If it's done right it, a connection between the customer and the restaurant is created that locks the customer in for the long term. That is why when I create new concepts I am constantly analyzing how to best appeal to all of the five senses. I want the customer to experience multiple stimulations. At Which Wich, they will feel the heat of the sandwich, smell the aroma of the fresh ingredients, then taste the quality, all while listening to an appetizing beat and seeing an energetic well-trained staff. Creating a brand that works in this way will enable it to grow and withstand the test of time. Is brand development something a smaller operation, a two- to-three-shop company, should concern itself with? Yes, most definitely. Like I explained, you want that customer attachment and brand loyalty whether it's one store or 1,000. "My feeling on businesses is that they are commodities that are bought, sold, and traded at any given time." Tell us more about Which Wich. Which Wich is a "superior sandwich" concept. I was frustrated with the quality of the current sandwich shops. Intrigued with the Subway/Blimpie model of growth and size, I developed Which Wich where the bar would be raised in the sandwich industry. Raising the bar in quality, people, and environment are all part of the Which Wich mission. First, "superior sandwiches": All of the products that Which Wich carries are "A" grade, as opposed to the "C" of some competitors. The meats, cheeses, produce, and condiments are all carefully selected and combined to create some serious superior sandwich concoctions. Which Wich also carries a variety of soft drinks, chips, and cookies, using regional selections if they meet our standards and are available. Superior people: Customers, employees, and vendors come together in a socially interactive concept. Together a community is formed that has a long and lasting following. The people of Which Wich will actively participate in the local community to increase the brand and goodwill. Superior environment: Environments exist on many levels. Our interiors are unique; they contain elements of art, func-tion, and efficiencies. Where possible, Which Wich is committed to using environmentally conscious materials in architecture, such as Nike Grind flooring, and in operations (using Green Mountain Energy). We also recognize the importance of recycling and global responsibility and try to make the world a better place daily. For more information please contact us. Which Wich Inc. or Which Wich Franchise, Inc. 866-WHICHWICH phone [email protected]

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Which Wich Franchise Inc.
1410 Main St.
Dallas, TX

Phone: (214)747-9424
Toll Free: (888) 222-1651
Fax: (214)242-4329

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