Serving up fresh concepts


“One thing you say can about the restaurant industry is that it supplies a never-ending stream of new concepts being created and commercialized. Every time you turn around, there is a new idea — or more commonly, a new twist on an old idea. The Lexington market continues to benefit from this, attracting new chain restaurant players all the time.

One of the new players in town is Dagwood’s Sandwich Shoppes, which opened up recently at Brighton Shops off Man O’ War Boulevard near Todds Road. Pete and Rachel Poynter are the father-and-daughter co-owners of Raelynn Enterprises, which has been awarded the exclusive franchise development rights to the Lexington, Louisville, Evansville and Bowling Green markets for the concept. I have been to their restaurant twice, and this is a concept that does a great job serving a broad array of sandwiches, soups, salads and sides at a reasonable price.

The term “Dagwood Sandwich” originated in the 1930s after the Dagwood Bumstead character in Chic Young’s comic strip Blondie. Today, the term Dagwood Sandwich is so common and generic that it is found in Webster’s New World Dictionary and other similar sources. The creators of the restaurant concept have done a great job capitalizing on the theme through the use of large and colorful iconography from the comic strip. This is a great name for a sandwich chain, and it’s a wonder that it didn’t happen before now. You can learn more about this concept at www.dagwoods.us.com.

Another concept about to open in two locations is Raising Cane’s (www.raisingcanes.com). These are franchised stores and locally owned by Garyen Denning and his partners through their company, Dropping Bird. They have locations under construction in the Hamburg area and near the UK campus. This concept differentiates itself through specialization and focus. They have a core menu of chicken tenders, long, crinkle-cut fries, Texas Toast and slaw with freshness (no frozen ingredients). With a cook-to-order operational process combined with their tasty Canes Sauce, Raising Cane’s keeps their concept narrowly focused with a huge emphasis on execution.

A third new player to the area is Firehouse Subs, located on South Upper Street near the UK campus. This is one of nearly 300 restaurants in this Florida-based chain and focuses on hot, hearty subs using high-quality ingredients and a steaming process to warm the sandwiches. The concept was founded in 1994 by two fireman, and they do a great job not only with their food but leveraging the name and imagery of firehouses and firefighters. For more information on this concept, check out www.firehousesubs.com. These stores are locally owned by Bob Conochalla of Hot Subs LLC, and this store will be a training location for future restaurants. The concept is actively seeking franchisees for more Lexington locations and other parts of the state.

While these concepts have opened, other national and regional chains have their eye on the Lexington market. Some are actively seeking franchisees in Lexington and other Kentucky markets.

One of these concepts is Einstein’s Bros. Bagels, which is a Colorado-based chain of over 400 units with expansion plans that include Kentucky. I for one believe that Lexington is underserved in the bagel segment, and this is a concept that would have strong local appeal. However, the concept has also evolved and now has a broader menu that appeals beyond the breakfast daypart. You can view their menu and find other information at www.einsteinbros.com. Currently the closest stores to Lexington are in Indiana and Ohio. They have a high-quality franchise development team, and they will land here soon, I predict.

Another concept eyeing this market is the Dunkin Donuts chain (www.dunkindonuts.com). This chain and Starbucks are the two biggest players in this segment but have somewhat different demographic customer profiles and also different brand strategies. They are actively seeking franchisees in Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green and other markets. This is a brand that has over 7,000 locations worldwide, and if they are serious about this market, that means they will be here in a serious way eventually.

And so what does this all mean? I say it means more competition and more choices, which in my opinion means a winning combination for the consumers in the Lexington market.

Mark Sievers, a former restaurant executive with Yorkshire Global Restaurants and YUM! Brands, owns the business brokerage and consulting company The Sievers Company LLC. He can be reached at thesieversco@aol.com.

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