Bennigan's merging casual, fast casual dining

Nov. 27, 2012

Bennigan's Franchising Company is launching new domestic and international locations, a new building prototype, new food and beverage menus and franchise partners as part of the brand's revolution, said Paul Mangiamele, Bennigan's president and CEO.

"The past year is only the beginning of our legendary comeback," he said. "Our return to relevance demonstrates the passion we collectively feel for Bennigan's. That intense passion has us 'Bleeding Green 25/8' and constantly focused on both our guests and our franchise partners in all of our restaurants around the world. Our Corporate Support Team is the best in the restaurant industry, and none of this would be possible without all of us working together to accomplish our mission."

The 82-unit company saw explosive growth in 2012, with new restaurant openings throughout Texas, as well as internationally in Dubai, El Salvador and Korea. Bennigan's ends the year with four openings in the fourth quarter alone, and also with agreements to develop over 30 new restaurants in 2013 in New Jersey, Maryland, Texas, Arkansas, Minnesota, Florida, Tennessee and Michigan, and international openings slated for Mexico, Cyprus and Korea. The company currently has 34 domestic and 48 international locations.

New and existing Bennigan's franchisees are benefitting from the chain's comeback, which began in May 2011, when Mangiamele joined the company and launched a mission to bring memorable dining experiences. The resulting operational and service improvements increased same-store sales at the prototype locations by double digits and introduced a new generation of Bennigan's that speaks to the brand's history and pays respect to its heritage. As same-store sales continue to increase and domestic and international growth rockets into new markets, Bennigan's is debuting a new menu and improved prototype.

"Our new restaurant design creates a great vibe and energy with a more modern look and feel," Mangiamele said. "The interiors greatly enhance visibility of our back of the house and chef-driven food, allowing it to be the star of the dining room. Our franchisees now have a complete toolbox of many adaptable prototypical elements to fit any real estate."

Bennigan's has also introduced a new iteration of its food menu. Printed front and back, the menu's absence of food photos makes it a visual departure from the typical casual dining chain menu. The sleek design highlights chef-driven flavor profiles and innovative ingredients from the company's chef, Scott Foster, as well as the classic recipes that remain as a steadfast reminder of Bennigan's nostalgic history, Mangiamele said.

Introducing new drink menus

Additionally, in the first quarter of 2013, Bennigan's will launch a beverage menu in all 34 domestic locations that will capture the ingenuity of the brand. The focused menu features 14 drinks wrapped around a custom-designed bottle for a hands-on, interactive experience. The Long Ireland Iced Tea, Stout Bloody Mary with Guinness, Irish Kiss and Shamrockin' Sangria take classic cocktails and add a distinctively Irish twist, making the exceptional and innovative drinks uniquely Bennigan's, said Jennifer Gamble, VP of marketing.

"Never in our storied history have so many initiatives been launched that will effect such a dramatic impact on restaurant sales and profits," she said.

Focused on catering

Together with software partner MonkeyMedia Software, Bennigan's is rolling out a powerful back-office system to execute local catering operations on a national level. Testing in Chicago has yielded positive results and showed that catering has the potential to become 10 to 15 percent of sales, Mangiamele

"Innovation is at the heart of any revolution, and we are most excited about the launch of our single largest initiative in this company's history — catering, which will continue to roll out domestically in 2013," said Mangiamele. "It is an opportunity to take our Irish Hospitality beyond our four walls, create a new sales venue and do something that no one else in casual dining is doing to any scale."

Bennigan's on the Fly

Bennigan's Franchising Company plans to continue its growth momentum into 2013 by offering the new prototype restaurant with a lower cost of entry and smaller format designed to fit different site options from end-caps and in-line spaces to freestanding pad sites. The brand is also introducing a fast casual, non-traditional model called "Bennigan's on the Fly," which allows for development in airports, hotels, hospitals, cruise ships, universities and other venues.

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Topics: Franchising & Growth , Operations Management

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