TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Business

March 17, 2011

Six Dollar Experience

China replaces plastic bowls and plates at London’s Fazoli’s restaurant

CORBIN — By Carl Keith Greene / Staff Writer

Fazoli’s President and CEO Carl T. Howard visited London’s restaurant last week as it changed over from its original style of serving food on plastic plates, in plastic bowls and in aluminum pans with plastic eating utensils to a classier style of china plates and bowls and real silverware, forks, knives and spoons.

It retains the “fast-food” style of taking orders at the front counter and other than the self-service beverage fountain, the rest of the food service is brought to the customer’s table.

London’s restaurant was the 35th to see the entry of what Howard called, the “enhanced service program. It does more than just the dishes. We completely revitalized the whole menu, added quality back in the menu. We’ve added new ingredients.”

And, he said, “We had a six-dollar product that we were selling and we were packaging it like a three-dollar experience in foam and foil. The foil looked like a TV dinner and we never got credit for how good our food is.”

He said since he took the post the restaurants have changed about 90 percent of the menu.

“Our marinara sauce is changed from a hot pressed tomato to a cold pressed tomato. Not only is it a lot more expensive but it takes a longer time to get the marinara to the right formula. Hot pressed takes a lot more of the nutrients out of it, makes it dark,” Howard explained.

The company was struggling because of menu value and food quality, he said.

“So we attacked that first.”

The restaurants have tossed the foam plates and aluminum containers and gone to china. “Now we’re giving you a six-dollar experience but we’re presenting it like a ten-dollar experience with the silverware. And it’s been very successful for us,” he added.

The change started in Dayton, Ohio, a year ago. “We remodeled the whole market and did the same thing,” Howard said. “It took off on us very well.”

Then they went to Kansas City and Saint Louis, then western Kentucky. Then to Chattanooga and east Tennessee and now the changes come to eastern Kentucky.

Two changes that truly add service for the customers are the fact that the bread sticks are again distributed among the diners, but also the diners don’t have to go back to the counter to pick up their meals, the employees deliver it to the tables, he explained.

The table delivery made sense, he said, because there had been complaints from families who had left their children at the table while the adults went for the food.

“The guests really like it,” Howard said.

And with large parties it was really a problem, he added.

With the china and silverware came more servers and new equipment for cleaning the china and silverware.

Jerrico, the family that furnished Jerry’s and Long John Silver’s restaurants brought Fazoli’s to life in Lexington in 1988.

Within two years, five Fazoli’s restaurants were cooking spaghetti and the concept was sold to Lexington’s Seed Restaurant Group and in 2006 Sun Capital Partners of Boca Raton, Fla. bought the Italian restaurant company that now sees some 230 restaurants in 26 states as far as Nevada and Texas.

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