As a young restaurateur, David Davoudpour would go to Shoney’s to “steal ideas.” Now Mr. Davoudpour is bringing ideas of his own to the family-dining chain.
Shoney’s was once a coast-to-coast destination for millions of families looking for hearty food at a reasonable price. But a series of management turnovers and changing consumer tastes have shrunk Shoney’s Corp. to fewer than 300 locations from more than 1,000, and it stopped selling new franchises.
Mr. Davoudpour, who bought the company 2½ years ago, has an ambitious plan to turn it around: add upscale fare and fresher ingredients to lure new customers and get more people to choose made-to-order meals, instead of opting for the value-priced buffet bar.
That means striking a difficult balance familiar to any entrepreneur trying to engineer a turnaround: too much change, and the brand may lose its identity and core customers; not enough, and it may not attract new business. But turnarounds are especially difficult for franchisers. That’s because Shoney’s, like many franchisers, has multiple independent operators—many of whom regard change as a threat to their investments. So a franchiser has to convince these skeptical operators that it’s in their interest to follow the headquarters-directed game plan. Read on…