Thursday, October 28, 2010
Closing the lid on a local Jack in the Box
Near my Baton Rouge, La., neighborhood is a Jack in the Box fast-food restaurant that, from all cursory indications, had appeared to be surviving the recession. That is, until overnight the freestanding building was vacated and a closed sign appeared in the window.
Within a couple of days, all signage -- including the pole sign out front -- were removed and the building completely emptied. What is left is an attractive structure with no visible indication that Jack in the Box ever lived there.
That’s a happier ending than you might think.
Some retailers, and restaurateurs, don’t seem to understand the beating a brand takes when a unit is left to rot -- signage in place -- in full view of former patrons. As weeds grow tall and windows turn dingy, the brand’s image sours as surely as the smell of the garbage in the unemptied dumpster out back.
Jack in the Box gets it. The San Diego-based company announced plans on Sept. 29 to close 40 company-owned restaurants prior to its Oct. 3 fiscal year-end, shedding the most glaring underperformers in its 2,200-unit chain. And, if the Baton Rouge Coursey Blvd. location is any indication, Jack in the Box took just as strategic an approach to the closing process as it did to the performance analyses. Not only is the vacant building devoid of brand identifiers, but the lawn is mowed, the windows are clean, and all references to the former unit have been removed from the company website.
According to excess property experts, Jack in the Box’s contraction procedure was textbook. Matt Bisignano, Taco Bell’s director of development for the eastern U.S. Bisignano, along with Sonya Webster of Walmart Realty, addressed the topic of “Redevelopment of Excess Property” to an audience at the National Retail Tenants Association annual conference, held in September in Anaheim, Calif.
“Company image is important,” said Bisignano. “A vacant Taco Bell needs to be mitigated to enhance your company image.” Webster agreed. “We try to make our vacant properties look less like a Wal-Mart to try and keep it from detracting from our image.”
Both experts recommend that retailers have a process in place to strip old properties of signage and other identifiers to protect the brand. “You need to make an investment into this kind of program,” said Webster, “so that you will be a better company and community ambassador. And, if you’re like us, you have more excess property now than you have had in the past.”
-- Katherine Field