In this exclusive Q&A, we talk with Ron Lynch, president of Tilted Kilt, about the thinking behind the company’s new prototype restaurant design.
Franchise Chatter (FC): How are “eatertainment” brands adapting to the current full-service restaurant marketplace?
Ron Lynch (RL): With consumer spending on the rise, dining out has become a major aspect of the American social scene and “eatertainment” restaurants are finding ways to appeal to this demographic.
Customer traffic to classic sit-down restaurants such as Chili’s, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, etc., has declined nine of the past 13 years. Meanwhile, “eatertainment” chains are growing at a double digit pace over the last year, according to a recent Technomic report.
When consumers dine out at full-service restaurants, they choose restaurants like Tilted Kilt that will provide them with an experience, not just a meal. Whether this experience includes games, live entertainment or a sports-friendly atmosphere, “eatertainment” concepts are slowly becoming the new norm.
FC: How is Tilted Kilt making strides during the recent restaurant industry slump?
RL: We are continuously looking for ways to add innovation and modernization to our concept in order to appeal to today’s consumer. For example, we opened a new prototype pub in July 2016 that features the future plan for all Tilted Kilt pubs.
We wanted to revamp our design to increase the “eatertainment” aspect of our brand—the fun and entertaining elements guests come to expect. Customers can now experience a new gaming area, a venue for live entertainment and a remodeled interior. It features lighter colored wood wainscot, window shades to allow for more light and a TKTV “Crew Cam” which will allow real time viewing of food being prepared in the kitchen.
Further enhancing the entertainment features, the new prototype pub offers a variety of unique seating styles from high tops, raised booth seating, banquet seating in the “Poet’s Corner” for parties of 20, friendly community gatherings at the “Captain’s table,” and “Crew tables” – for close friends and family, in addition to bar seating.
Upon entering the pub, guests will find a bar running down the middle of the restaurant designed to attract more guests with comfortable seating and innovative features. These include USB charging ports, in addition to encouraging more guest interaction with beer taps placed on the front, rather than the back of the bar, and a glass front cooler for an easy visual of bottled beer options.
To keep up with food trends, we experimented with a bacon bar in one of our corporate locations in Tempe, Arizona. We wanted our guests to experience something out-of-the-box and knew bacon would be an attractive food trend.
We offer guests the option of eight pieces of bacon which total an entire pound—each strip is a different flavor from chipotle raspberry to garlic parmesan. We even installed a pig-shaped neon sign over the bar with the words ‘Bacon Bar.’ We have seen great success in this concept and hope to initiate it nationwide.
FC: How is Tilted Kilt capitalizing on the “lone diner trend” of people dining alone rather than dining in a group setting?
RL: To keep up with the growing trend, we have created more warm and welcoming environments when customers chose to dine alone. Rather than sitting at the bar or occupying a four-top alone, diners are increasingly drawn to communal seating options.
At our prototype pub, there is communal seating that will seat 30 people and will run down the center of the main room. It has the same feeling as sitting at a bar with televisions and sports broadcastings.
In addition, all of our pubs have crew tables which are appealing to smaller groups since they allow guests to socialize both within their social groups and with other people.
FC: How often does Tilted Kilt update the food and beverage menu?
RL: We introduce quarterly LTOs (limited-time offers) to keep up with food and drink trends, as well as updated Tilted Kilt menus around the holidays—from our Summer Shakers drink menu to our Hoppy Hour menu.
Our most popular update is around St. Patrick’s Day when we release our Irish Hooley menu. We offer a variety of specialty beverages, including numerous beers on tap and Irish whiskeys, shooters, bombers, and brilliant bevvie’s in addition to delicious Irish cuisine.
FC: Tilted Kilt has introduced craft beer to the menu—how do you keep up with the trends in craft beer and determine what to keep on tap?
RL: Every pub has 30+ draught and bottled beers along with excellent tasting, high quality menu items.
Breweries have their own release strategies for seasonal beer offerings, so being aware of these release schedules helps our brand introduce new seasonal menu offerings in a timely manner. This allows us to play on the classic flavors of the season and drive our own menu flavor calendar.
Once a certain seasonal beer is no longer sold, it’s time to switch up our seasonal offerings and create a new range of flavors to complement the tone and tastes of the changing season.
FC: What is the average investment for a Tilted Kilt franchise?
RL: The initial franchise fee is $75K per location with a total estimated investment range of $898K – $2.8M per location.
FC: What kind of ongoing support do Tilted Kilt franchisees receive?
RL: Franchisees receive location assistance as well as assistance in the development of their restaurant. Additionally, we provide all franchisees initial training, which consists of on-the-job training in a Tilted Kilt restaurant at or near corporate headquarters in Tempe, Arizona.
Franchisees also have access to marketing and advertising materials, grand opening support, the operation manual, as well as a Franchise Business Consultant who will provide various in-store visits to ensure the restaurant is on track to success.
FC: What are the qualifications for becoming a Tilted Kilt franchisee?
RL: We look for multi-unit owners who are looking to diversify their portfolio, or aspiring entrepreneurs who have a passion for the food and entertainment industry. We also look for individuals who have restaurant experience. We want franchisees who are going to be passionate about the brand while providing an exceptional guest experience.
FC: How has the management shift of the CEO and COO of Tilted Kilt impacted the brand?
RL: Eddie Goitia and Logan Reves have taken on the new roles of CEO and COO of Tilted Kilt within the last year. Both have an inside knowledge of the restaurant industry and the Tilted Kilt brand.
There is no better choice to help usher the brand into its next phase of growth. Not only has the pair proven themselves time and again in their success and years with the company, but they’ve emerged as true leaders. The new leadership will be a refining force for the company as it continues to pass milestones.
Goitia manages the day-to-day operations of the company, while Reves directly oversees the marketing, operations and training departments, as well as the strategic menu development for the brand. Both have several years of experience at Tilted Kilt and decades of experience in the restaurant industry between the two.