Since opening its first restaurant in 1984, Jody Maronis Sausage Kingdom has been confined to non-traditional locations, such as stadiums, airports, and outlet malls. Not anymore. In February, the Venice, California-based quick-serve opened its first traditional location.
Franchisee Anina Siddiqui opened the 1,200 square-foot siteher firstin mid-February in Arcadia, California, a suburb of Pasadena.
Im happy with the franchise, and I am happy seeing repeat customers, Siddiqui says.
Rich Leivenberg, executive vice president of Jody Maronis, says though the company had previously shied away from locations on the street, they were happy with the site for Siddiquis restaurant. It is located in a strip mall and is close to a library, local government buildings, a city golf course, and a 4,000-student high school.
We liked the demographics, and we liked that the strip mall had been recently redone, he explains. We think we have a great product, and were pretty excited about bringing it to the masses in a new way.
The restaurant has been open only about a month and a half, but Leivenberg says it is already beating expectations. Sales are trending about 20- to 25-percent higher than the company had anticipated.
She has opened very stronglymuch more strongly than we thought, Leivenberg says.
Jody Maronis started as a stand on the Venice boardwalk in 1979, and in a way, Leivenberg says the company held on to that type of destination location. The chain has opened shop in airports, outlet malls, and on Universal CityWalk in Los Angeles.
We were so successful in the [non-traditional] avenue that we didnt even look at [traditional locations], he says. You have to choose a direction, and we really liked the non-traditional.
The leadership of Jody Maronis was also afraid that the prices of its premium sausage products$6.99 for a sausage sandwich combo, including fries and a drinkmight make it hard to compete on the street with lower priced quick-service sandwich shops. Many customers thought of Jody Maronis fare as a special occasion indulgence, Leivenberg says.
Were not a cheap hot dog stand, and we dont want to be, he explains. We have gourmet sausage.
The chain currently has 20 locations, mainly in California, but also in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. Jody Maronis has also built its name through sponsorships with sports teams, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, and through a branded retail program that began in the 1990s. The companys sausage products were available in Costco, Trader Joes, and other grocery stores. That program ended about two years ago because the company wanted to concentrate on being a quick-service restaurant brand.
John Gordon, principal at Pacific Management Consulting Group, a San Diego-based restaurant-consulting group, says starting in non-traditional locations and moving to the street is not the typical trajectory of a restaurant.
Its true that its more typical to get started in a traditional environment, largely because foodservice operators get used to acquiring sites, and theres less of a barrier, in theory, to using a traditional site, Gordon says.
In a way though, Jody Maronis and other chains that start in non-traditional sites such as stadiums or airports enjoy high visibility that can carry over when they do decide to open traditional locations on the street, he reasons.
Jody Maronis is hoping that will be the case. Four or five other potential franchisees have already showed interest in opening traditional locations elsewhere, and the company will soon be launching a new web site to better communicate with interested parties.
Even so, Leivenberg says Jody Maronis is still not ready to abandon entirely its strategy of growing in non-traditional sites.
We will continue to expand in that arena, he says. Our biggest growth is currently in premium outlet malls. Were about to open our fourth location in Houston, and we hope to continue to grow that side of the business.
Besides the Houston location, the company also has two other stores coming on line in the next few months.
Were prepared, were ready for growth, and we hope it will be substantial, Leivenberg says.