Repositioning Broadens Customer Appeal And Beefs Up Sandwich Sales For D'angelo

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

One year ago, D'Angelo Sandwich Shops served up an extreme makeover for its regional chain of more than 150 owned and franchised stores. It dramatically freshened the decor package, cut food prep time, shrank and repositioned the kitchen and changed its name to D'Angelo Grilled Sandwiches. D'Angelo turned to Columbus, Ohio-based design and operations consultants WD Partners for help in capturing new customers and getting more from its established ones.In developing a more upscale and comfortable profile, "we set out to position D'Angelo as an attractive choice in the fast-casual sandwich category without distancing ourselvesfrom our core customers," saysTom Galligan, president and CEO of parent company Papa Gino's. Known for its hearty sandwiches - especially the Number 9, grilled steak with mushrooms, peppers, onions and cheese - D'Angelo has long been a staple among New England men. "When we did our research we discovered D'Angelo was a masculine brand, like Ralph Lauren is a masculine brand," says Lee Peterson, executive director for WD Partners. D'Angelo wanted "to make our restaurants more appealing to women, especially mothers and their families, because that would allow us to capture incremental dine-in lunchtime business as well as dinner business," Galligan says. Over time, D'Angelo's menu has grown to include more than 44 sandwiches, as well as a variety of soups and fresh-made salads. To attract more women, WD created a decor that was, if anything, even more manly, with deep colors and materials like brick and wood. Rather than serve as a turnoff to women, a strong, rugged look suggests quality, Peterson says. He and his team toured Boston's Back Bay and Newbury Street in search of ingredients found in an authentic New England sub shop. To help convey the changes inside, WD also redesigned the D'Angelo logo. What once featured whimsical lettering on a Kelly green background now has strong white block lettering against a burgundy field and carries an "Est. 1967" tagline. Outside, customers will see illuminated signs, while the large handpainted sign on an interior brick wall is highlighted WWW.STORES.ORG with track heads. A combination of light sources such as the low-voltage track replaced unflattering fluorescents, and schoolhouse-style pendants hang from the exposed ceiling to give the stores the feel of an old factory. Warmth of wood. WD also bid goodbye to tile floors, which were replaced by vinyl flooring that looks like hardwood and imparts the warmth of the real thing. In fact, wood plays a major role in the new stores. A combination of light- and dark-wood two-person tables populates the dining room. Single diners can take a seat at counters set with tall, wooden barstools,and families will be comfortable in high-backed booths that line one wall. "We wanted to make sure that D'Angelo wasn't family unfriendly," Peterson says, "but we were going to let the design seek its own ground." The result is clearly masculine, "but it doesn't really reject anybody." All new design stores will be company stores and a mix of retrofits and ground-up construction. The welcoming new entryway - a curved half wall of wood topped with blackboard-style menu boards set at eye level - replaces the efficient-but-sterile stanchion. Making its stores more appealing has yielded a higher check average in its 19 "new" restaurants, where sales have exceeded projections. And not being rushed to get in and out so quickly "means they have more time to contemplate their order, which in turn means they may consider moving up to a higher-priced selection," Galligan says. The new design also is attracting more dinner business, he says, "so we're seeing a benefit in several areas through our stronger on-site appeal." Operations is another area WD addressed when it trimmed 100 sq. ft. off the kitchen and added it to the dining room. It also placed the kitchen in full customer view. . "We wanted to improve our competitive stance by drawing attention to our key point of differentiation- that ingredients in our hot sandwiches are cooked to order as each order is placed," Galligan says. The chain does not pre-cook, microwave or use steam tables, and "it is this freshly cooked distinction that has earned us such a loyal following among consumers throughout New England." Kitchen in view The decision to position the kitchen more prominently was a strategic one, says Mark Godward, executive director of operations engineering at WD Partners. "I think while it creates energy, it also creates an expectation that the food being prepared is of high quality. When everything is visible," Godward says, "the perception is the product is better, it's fresher." The streamlined kitchen also worked to trim prep time by a minute to a minute and a half. Now the average time to prepare an order is about six minutes, which not only aids customer satisfaction, but the bottom line, as well. The "fast feeders" who can prepare food and put it in their customers' hands faster have a big advantage, Godward says, because they "turn tables faster. You'll serve more food and make more money." The Westborough, Mass., store is on track to gross more than $800,000 in its first year (compared with an average unit volume of $585,000) and Galligan reports that D'Angelo has seen "20 to 30 percent increases in many remodeled units." Accordingly,the chain revised its rollout plans. "We're on target with our revised plan to have 21 new stores open by the close of our fiscal year [this month]," Galligan says. For now, all new-design stores will be company stores and a mix of retrofits and ground-up construction. New franchisee locations are expected by early 2006, Galligan says. "The final stage will be to roll out a program that will allow our existing franchisees to convert their units to the new design," he says, "and we expect to have that package in place by late this year."

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D'Angelo Grilled Sandwiches
600 Providence Hwy.
Dedham, MA

Phone: (781)467-1663
Toll Free: 888-374-2830
Fax: (781)329-8796

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