LAKELAND, Fla. -- Crispers, the salad and sandwich restaurant chain that is majority-owned by Publix Super Markets here, said it is building 10 new outlets this year and making major menu changes that are expected to draw more customers for evening meals.
Publix increased its ownership to hold a majority stake this year in the Florida restaurant chain, which now has 30 stores, although it would not disclose the amount of its investment. "We recognize the growth potential of Crispers and the fact that both companies share similar values for the highest-quality services and products," said Charlie Jenkins Jr., chief executive officer, Publix.
Crispers CEO and President Michael Calhoon said Publix's majority ownership enables the restaurant chain to "utilize the buying power" of the supermarket chain in buying goods and certain foods. "We are a large growing chain, and we can negotiate some on prices, and in some cases, it has some advantages in purchasing through Publix," he said.
However, it uses its own distribution system and buys from U.S. Foodservice. There is no direct food buying from Publix.
Publix also gives Crispers "clout in advertising and in real estate," Calhoon said.
"They bring to the table our capacity to grow," he said.
"They bring a professional organization with departments we can draw upon to help us in whatever way we need -- food photographers and real estate professionals as an example. We make a request, and they then work with us."
To accommodate the new menu items, which will include several kinds of baked potatoes, vegetarian dishes, flatbreads and toasted sandwiches, the company is installing new ovens, warming drawers and microtoasters. It is also developing a children's menu.
"We realized we needed to take a look at the menu, and enhance it to include foods more well-suited to the dinner hour," Calhoon said. "We decided to warm up the facilities, too, and create a more dinner-oriented look."
While most of the restaurants are in central Florida, the new outlets will be located from Tallahassee to Fort Myers. Established in 1989, Crispers caters to middle- and upper-income customers who want a healthy-style menu. Crispers is planning to build between 10 and 15 stores per year and is looking to expand outside Florida in areas where Publix already operates supermarkets.