OPERATIONS

Burger 21 continues expansion with strategic franchise agreements

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Tampa, Fla. — Burger 21, founded by the owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants, has executed its first franchise agreement in Michigan, under which a debut restaurant in Ann Arbor will open summer 2015.

Additionally, the company signed two franchise agreements for single units in Ocala, Florida, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The new deals are part of the fast-casual concept’s growth strategy to expand its presence in new and existing markets nationwide.

To date, Burger 21 has 13 open locations and 25 franchised restaurants in development.

"Raleigh, Ocala and Ann Arbor represent three new markets where we are confident that Burger 21’s diverse menu and unique dining experience will be extremely well received,” said Dan Stone, VP of franchise development for Front Burner Brands, management company for Burger 21. “All three of our new franchise groups come with great foodservice and franchising backgrounds and they all have a desire to open additional Burger 21 locations in the future."

Mohammad and Wisal Samaha, multi-unit Jimmy John’s franchisees, plan to open the first Burger 21 location in the state of Michigan in Ann Arbor by summer 2015. John Usher, a nine-unit McDonald’s owner, and independent restaurant operator Ken DePasquale will open a restaurant in Ocala in the first half of 2015.

Mitch Neal, who has owned and operated eight Sonic drive-in locations, and Keith Smith, a seasoned restaurant operator, will open a Morrisville (Raleigh), North Carolina, unit by summer 2015.

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SUPPLY CHAIN

Ascena Retail Group opens DC and shared services complex

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Etna, Ohio — Ascena Retail Group Inc. has opened its new 880,000-sq.-ft. shared services office complex and national distribution center in Pataskala, Ohio.

The 120,000 sq. ft. of office space will accommodate Ascena’s Shared Services Associates who serve all five of Ascena’s retail brands: Lane Bryant, Justice, Maurices, Dressbarn and Catherines in areas such as information technology, sourcing and centralized procurement. Additionally, the 760,000-sq.-ft. distribution center will serve all of Ascena’s retail brands, transitioning the final brand in early fall. The facility will be home to 850 associates.

In January 2013 Ascena announced its plan to build an office space adjoined to the existing Distribution Center to house its Ohio-based Shared Services Associates. The new building features an onsite Café, Fitness Center, Coffee Bar and collaborative work spaces.

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FINANCE

GNC ups share repurchase authorization to $500 million

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Pittsburgh — GNC Holdings, Inc.’s board of directors has authorized a multi-year program to repurchase up to an aggregate $500 million of the company’s Class A common stock. The authorization is effective immediately and replaces GNC’s previous authorization, which had approximately $250 million remaining.

The repurchases are expected to take place over the next 24 months.

"Today’s announcement reflects our confidence in the business and its ability to continue to deliver strong free cash flow," said Mike Hines, chairman of GNC. "We remain committed to our capital allocation strategy, which is designed to both support growth and to return capital to shareholders. Increasing our share repurchase program is a very important component of this.”

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