Two mid-size restaurant chains, Huddle House and Fazoli’s, are set to expand in 2012 with new locations at highway travel centers, and other fast casual and quick-service restaurants may follow their lead.
Decatur, Ga.-based Huddle House has 430 locations nationwide, while Fazoli’s, HQ’d in Lexington, Ky., currently has 230.
Huddle House plans to add six truck-stop locations to the 25 it already has through an agreement with travel-center operator Pilot Flying J, as reported by trade publication QSR Magazine. Huddle House believes over-the-road truckers are great demographic fit for its diner-style restaurant concept. As one company official puts it, “Some of those gentlemen can put away a lot of food.” In fact, the chain offers a supplemental menu called the “Big Rig” at its truck stop locations, which features heartier portions.
One aspect of travel center business that the restaurant chains find attractive is the steady stream of business that rolls in throughout the day, instead of just the lunch and dinner rush.
Fast casual concept, Fazoli’s, plans to open up to 10 travel-center locations in the coming year, accounting for about 50 percent of the chain’s expansion plans for 2012. Fazoli’s likes the visibility and brand exposure offered by travel-plaza operations, in addition to the round-the-clock traffic.
Travel centers have gone through considerable changes in recent times, especially when it comes to foodservice. Many have teamed up with local, regional, and national restaurant brands and have taken on the appearance of a food court, offering a blend of full-service, fast casual and fast food operations—in addition to the maps, brochures of local attractions and helpful trip advisors you typically find there.
You just never know what you might see—or taste—at these Welcome Centers that dot the highways across America.
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