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Roy Rogers Relaunches Growth Effort

by News Times USA

Jeremy Biser recalls growing up in Western Maryland, where going to Roy Rogers was a treat.

Biser is now executive vice president of the 52-year-old Western-themed brand, which oversaw nearly 650 restaurants at its peak back in the late 1980s. The company began 2020 with 48 units—24 company-owned and 24 franchised—but Biser believes there’s an opportunity over time to reach back into the hundreds.

“People have a love for the Roy Rogers brand,” Biser says. “Everywhere I go, people tell me stories about experiences they’ve had at Roy Rogers at one point in their life. I want to be able to bring that back to people.”

The Frederick, Maryland-based chain was founded in 1968, and is named after a popular Western star in the mid-20th century. By 1990, Marriott sold off Roy Rogers when their hotel division faced financial woes, and Imasco, then the parent of Hardee’s, snapped it up in an attempt to transform the brand into Hardee’s units to break ground in the Northeast.

That conversion attempt fell flat, and by the mid-90s Hardee’s had sold about 110 units to Boston Chicken/Market in the Philadelphia area, 150 units in New York and New Jersey to Burger King and Wendy’s, and 182 restaurants to McDonald’s. In the late 90s, Hardee’s was sold to CKE (Carl Karcher Enterprises), the parent company of Carl’s Jr.

Jim Plamondon and his brother, Pete Plamondon Jr., joined Roy Rogers after Hardee’s acquired the brand. They bought their father Pete Plamondon Sr.’s operating company, Plamondon Enterprises Inc., which he had established to run his franchises, in 1998. The pair acquired the Roy Rogers trademark and rights to franchise the concept from Imasco in 2002. When the Plamondon brothers officially took control of Roy Rogers, the unit count had dropped into the 40s.

Biser says the Plamondon brothers did a good job of growing company stores, but they needed help expanding the franchise side of the business. When Biser began his tenure in 2018, he took a step back for about 90 days and completed a full needs-assessment of everything—supply chain, marketing, people, operations, organizational structure, brand positioning, and partnerships. He posed multiple questions, such as how can corporate strengthen the brand and how does it relaunch the chain in a manner that addresses brand relevance and promotes growth through franchising. A three-year strategic plan was put in place, guided by four pillars—quality people, quality products, quality experiences, and quality business.

Development was paused for 18 months while the team worked on various foundational initiatives. During this process, Roy Rogers appointed industry veterans, launched with DoorDash, introduced a new store design, worked with SiteZeus to map territories, enhanced its signature menu items, and created an online store for its fan base—known as Royalists—to purchase branded gear.

So far, the results have been favorable. Roy Rogers experienced three years of negative transaction growth and slightly positive comps. In 2019, those numbers flattened and in the first period of this fiscal year (Roy Rogers has 13 periods in its fiscal calendar) the chain surpassed transaction benchmarks and saw the best comp sales period since Biser joined the company.

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