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(Real Talk Series) James Walker

Episode #: 022
(Real Talk Series) James Walker

Guest: James Walker
Topics: Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs, retail development


Chris Ressa 0:02
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris Ressa. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management.

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Welcome to retail retold. Today we have James Walker. James is the Senior Vice President of restaurants at Nathan’s Famous one of America’s most iconic brands. Today you’re gonna learn about what’s going on at Nathan’s the innovations they’re working on and their growth story. When I interviewed James, I learned a ton. I hope that you do too. I hope that you enjoy the episode. But before we go there, I wanted to talk about the state of the business world. And what everyone’s doing in these uncertain times in unfamiliar territory with the COVID 19 pandemic happening. Some people might be new to working remotely. People have their normal course of business to do. Some people might be might be out in the field, maybe first responders or even retail employees that general merchants might be working longer, different hours, people might have to change their, how they operate their business. We have unchartered waters, and there’s some uncertainty. So everyone’s got big goals, big challenges, and all these new things all at once. And so one of the things that has helped me in tackling big challenges and big goals. And we’ve all heard it before. And this is nothing new. And I’ll give you what I call it. But I call it when in advance. Around March normally, when I was younger, I would be getting ready for some big wrestling tournament, where there’d be a lot of matches to get to the gold. And no different than the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, Final Four, and then there’s one championship, and you got to win a bunch of games to go and what you have to do, you win in advance very simple that my father used to say that we all went in advance, Christopher went in advance, one match at a time. And so that’s what I’m working on with the team at DLC, taking bite sized chunks, when you have a lot of new things happening, if you try to tackle them all at once. When you try to tackle the end goal right away, you oftentimes miss, it’s so different than if you were going to run a marathon, you hadn’t run in two years, you just go out and try to 120 6.2 miles, it’s pretty defeating. Not to mention your legs are pretty sore. The best way to do that is to take bite sized chunks, week one, maybe you run a mile every other day or two miles every other day. And then over time, you slowly increase the amount of miles and the speed at which you’re running. What’s going on business world today is no different. You have to take bite sized chunks. Maybe it’s as simple as I need to get myself all situated in this work from home. Once I do that, get that when I can advance on to the next thing. Maybe that’s the normal course of business where that’s dealing with the strategies and plans in a COVID-19 world. My recommendation is focus on the task at hand. When in advance and you set yourself up in the best position there’s no guarantee but you set yourself up to put yourself in the best position to succeed because it is really daunting and defeating when you’re looking at all these big challenges and big problems and headline news to tackle it all at once. But if you get micro wins along the way I start to feel good, you start to build momentum, you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And so in times of uncertainty in times of uncharted waters, you can pick the lingo that you like best, even if it’s the most mundane simplest of tasks, get that done. When that task when that tactic win that strategy, and advance on to the next. That’s what I got for everyone today. I hope everyone enjoys the show. Stay safe, stay healthy. I’ll see you on Thursday, because we’re gonna have another episode. Thanks, everyone.

Today’s bonus episode, and we have James Walker, Senior Vice President of restaurants at Nathan’s Famous hot dogs. He was formerly the president of Global Operations at John rockets. He was the Chief Development Officer at ppl Brady’s. He’s the Vice President North America at Subway. And I think he brings a really interesting perspective on the restaurant industry. And did I get that right James is Nathan’s Famous hot dogs today.

James Walker 6:15
So you got Senior Vice President, right? Absolutely. James Walker, right. But Nathan’s Famous is a lot more than hot dogs. So if you’re not wrong, but maybe you’re not right, either. A lot of the work we’ve been doing is making sure that our positioning is really Nathan’s Famous, the flavor of New York and obviously a big part of that is hot dog, which is

Ressa 6:38
not exclusively. Got it. So

why don’t you tell me a little bit about your background? And how you ended up in the restaurant business as you have?

Walker 6:50
You know, it’s it’s a great question. You know, when I’ll try to go through ancient history really, really quick. I actually started in the music industry, not as a musician, I’m not talented in that way. But on the business side, you know, back in the 90s, was in the international side of the record industry, handling import exports. And I worked very hard and needed a little bit of a break, and moved out to an island called Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts, and had some free time and took a part time job in a restaurant and found that I just absolutely loved it. I loved working with food, I loved working with people, and over the past, you know, well over 20 years have continued in that industry. And today consider myself not only a great fan of the job I do, but the industry

Ressa 7:44
as a whole. Awesome. So you got into the restaurant industry,

and you worked your way up the restaurant industry at these large corporations.

And from Baja

Fresh to be full Brady’s Why don’t you tell me a little bit about how and the listeners if they find it interesting how you ended up, you know, really working your way up into the kind of sector you are the department and segment of the business that you work in today.

Walker 8:16
One of the things that I would say, you know, throughout my career, and one of the things I really like about the restaurant industry, is it is an industry where working hard does typically propel you with leaders like Chris Elliott at people Brady’s and Charles Bruce, at Johnny rocket. And now, Eric got off that Nathan’s Famous. So I’ve had some great mentors and leaders to look up to. But over that career, a lot of what’s propelled me forward and I think is still something that’s special about this industry is it’s an industry, we’re working hard and really put any effort and still move forward. And I credit where I am today. With that being willing to put in the hours and do the hard work, and then show tangible quantitative results because of that.

Ressa 9:09
sage advice. It’s probably true in more

extreme industries, and then just the restaurant industry to Yeah,

effort pays officer. All right, so

what does the Senior Vice President of restaurants do at Nathan’s Famous?


Walker 9:28
you know, a lot, I would say, determine what the priorities are. And then work with the individual department heads team and how best together, we can move against those priorities. So over the past 910 months, it’s really been positioning the brand for future growth. How do we take this brand that you may not know this brand has been around since 1916. So over 104 years of six That’s well history. How do we prepare for say the next 20 or 30 years? There’s a lot of disruptors in the industry right now from delivery and what’s going on with labor. In even today as the backdrop to today’s call, we have this Coronavirus situation, you know, how do we prepare this iconic brand to continue to be successful with the pace of change, really accelerating? And that’s, you know, from a macro standpoint, that’s what I do.

Ressa 10:32
And what departments do you oversee at Nathan’s?

Walker 10:36
I oversee the marketing department design and construction, corporate as well as franchise operations, and franchise sales.

Ressa 10:47
Wow. So, you know, these

things is interesting, because they have retail locations. And so do you know, how many locations do you have today?

Were 225

Walker 10:59
locations. And the vast majority of those are in the US, we do have a small international presence, or presence that we’re looking at, at trying to grow, but most of them in North America today. And

Ressa 11:16
you also have the consumer products business. You know, I could go to some, you know, online or grocery stores and buy Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, isn’t

that correct? It’s absolutely

Walker 11:28
correct. And that’s, that’s not 225 locations, that’s, that’s closer to 70,000 locations. You know, everything from your local convenience store, to your grocery store, carry, not just Nathan’s hot dogs, but things like our iconic waffle cut fries. I mean, there’s just, there’s a lot of love for Nathan’s out there. And we see it across a lot of different venues.

Ressa 11:55
And so

is the majority of the revenue today from the retail locations are the consumer products.

Walker 12:04
So the consumer products is where more of our revenue comes from today. And that’s really, you know, what I’ve been brought in to do back in, in April of last year, is how do we accelerate the restaurant division? And I would say it a different way, I’d say there’s a demand for the Nathan’s Famous restaurant brand, both from a franchising standpoint, or b2b as well as from consumer. So I’ve been brought in to position the brand to accelerate against that demand.

Ressa 12:37
Awesome. That’s really, really unique position me.

And so in your growth, are you see are you thinking

that it will be physical locations where, you know, you’re at 200 today, and you know, maybe one day there’s 500 Nathan’s locations?

Absolutely, we’re

Walker 12:58
looking to grow that, that physical presence. Now we’re going to do so against the backdrop of some of these disruptive forces, like the need for convenience and delivery. conversations in the industry, about things like darker ghost kitchens, so all of that happening at the same time. But 100% We’re looking to grow that physical presence, that brick and mortar restaurant, that corner Nathan’s that folks know and love in their neighborhood, we want more so to consumers?

Ressa 13:32

I wish one was in my neighborhood. I live in northern New Jersey, that that would be so cool. And what type of locations do you see that Nathan’s going into? You know, I see them in like, I think in like food courts in in airports and in New York Metro. But what if you’re, if you’re growing this with extra locations, DC happening?

Walker 14:00
Well, we’re certainly going to still continue to answer the demand and non traditional so those airport locations, we do very well, in those types of locations. And one of our largest partners is an airport concessionaire. So we’re going to continue to do that. In fact, I think we opened up another airport just two weeks ago in Islip, New York, in the MacArthur airport that’s doing really well for us. So we’re going to continue to answer that demand, as well as look at high traffic areas in more traditional real estate. So strip centers, we prefer N paths with drive throughs. We think drive throughs are a critical component for our segment of the restaurant industry. We’ll look at out parcels that have drive throughs in strip centers, and we’re still going to look at those high performing enclosed malls.

Ressa 14:53
Awesome and forgive my ignorance.

Do you have a bunch of Nathan’s drive thru locations He


Walker 15:01
so we don’t have a bunch. We we’ve got two prototypes, and we’re looking to build out that section.

Ressa 15:07
Wow, where are those prototypes if I wanted to go check them out?

Walker 15:12
Sure. And you should. There’s one in Yonkers, New York, that’s actually our corporate test prototype. And then we also have one down in Cape Coral, Florida.

Ressa 15:23

Yonkers, New York is about 15 minutes from my office, I’m gonna get there very, very shortly. That’s fantastic.

Walker 15:32
And well, and to give you a little more reason to go, that restaurant also has all of our new food innovation that we’ve been working on over over the last nine months. So you can absolutely get that iconic hotdog you mentioned. Well, we also have products like our new New York Tuesdays that we developed with Pat lafrieda. So there’s even more reason for you to make that, that 15 minute drive. Wow, that is so cool.

Ressa 16:00
And it’s so exciting to me to see a legacy brand like Nathan’s that’s so iconic, to really start to put the pedal to the metal on growth, I think this is exciting for the consumer, especially, there’s probably a new consumer out there, whether it’s Gen Z, or some millennials that haven’t heard of Nathan’s, and you know, where you could really penetrate? For sure.

I think that’s right,

Walker 16:30
you know, we do very well across the wide segment of the population. And, you know, we’re still looking at, you know, some of the Millennials don’t know the brand as well as we would like. And we think some of these new products. And in addition to the innovation we’ve had around the menu, event, innovation around design and decor and that physical plant, and we certainly done so we believe in a way that will endear us more to millennials and maybe some of our older design. And also, I mentioned a little bit of repositioning at the start of the call. You know, Nathan’s Famous being the flavor of New York, that’s our North Star, that’s our brand positioning, but also making sure that internally and externally, when we say New York, really we mean the greater New York City area. For years, our success was based around Coney Island. And that’s really where we come from. But if you grab a millennial on the street, the likelihood that they know Coney Island, and the history is probably pretty small, the likelihood that they know New York City and have favorable feelings towards it is a much greater bet I’ll take that bet every day.

Ressa 17:43
Totally. And is the growth going to be franchise driven? It’ll be both

Walker 17:55
we, you know, we like our corporate restaurant portfolio. We like what that does for us both financially as well as our ability to test innovation. And you’ve heard me say innovation a lot. And that’s part of our brand DNA is innovating across a number of different business pillars. And you know, corporate restaurants allow you to do that. But franchise growth is certainly going to I think outpace what we see from a corporate standpoint, there’s just more geography that makes sense to do

Ressa 18:28
through franchise ownership.

And do you do you all have a geographic footprint that you’re focused on where if you know, if you had your druthers where there’s so much opportunity for Nathan drag it?

I don’t think Nathan’s is in Iowa, Minnesota, let

alone places maybe in Miami and other places where, you know, how do you get

your arms around where to focus? Great.

Walker 18:54
Well, first of all, we are opening a location a new drive thru location in Miami next month. Where, yes, on bird road, so thanks. Thanks for that setup. It’s opening mid April, it’ll be one of our new prototypes that will have all those new menu items you can experience in Yonkers. But I really liked this question, because we’ve thought a lot about this. And absolutely, there’s there’s a lot of middle America opportunities. And frankly, there’s opportunities in every state but what we’re we’re focused on is markets that have just outperforming AAU these for the QSR segment. So when you look at markets like California, wow, that’s a market that can be difficult from a business standpoint because of taxes and you know, the cost of energy. It’s also a market that outperforms a UV wise average unit volume wise throughout QSR. So we’re looking at markets like California, but really the deepest bucket we’re looking at is markets. that we’ve been able to identify as markets where individuals from the tri state areas from that New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area, those people who know and love Nathan’s go, we either go on holiday, go on vacation or go to retire. So markets like Florida, where you just you have the New York Yankees spring training, you’ve got lots of New Yorkers who go there for the better weather, certainly the warmer weather, as well as the positive tax benefits. So we’re looking at those places that we can find New Yorkers and those individuals who love me now the new prototypes designed also, as I mentioned, really, to grab the attention of individuals who don’t know Nathan’s. Well, we love that backdrop. And that security that comes from going where people know and already love us.

Ressa 20:54
So you mentioned a

U V. And markets that outperformed what is the average Nathan’s at V today?

Walker 21:01
So there’s a wide range? It’s a very difficult question for me to give you an answer that really makes sense. And let me give you a little backdrop as to why so when I look at the Nathan’s portfolio, and everything that rolls up into that number, I’ve got hotdog cart that operate for only a couple months out of the year. So episodic hotdog carts and food trucks that are rolled out for events, and maybe only open a few weeks are few months a year. You know, that’s kind of the left end of the pendulum and all the way that pendulum swings all the way up to our our flagship location in Coney Island. That’s the size of the city block, and has 43 cashiers that on a busy weekend in the summer. So our EVs range range wildly?

Ressa 21:53

What do you think they’re gonna end up doing in these, like, drive thru freestanding and cap locations? Is it

comparable to other QSR? Guys? I do think it’s comparable.

Walker 22:05
You know, there’s certainly some, you know, some brands that I think outperformed the industry like chick fillet and In and Out Burger, and I think those guys are best in class. But I think when you think of the major QSR players, I think certainly we can rival their average unit volumes. And, and we can compete aggressively in most markets with those providers.

Ressa 22:35
How big are these locations. So we’re looking for,

Walker 22:39
you know, probably a stereotypical prototype that’s between 2200 square feet, up to 3000 square feet has a drive thru has the, you know, an adequate number of car parks as well as queuing space. And the Delta the difference between say a smaller location and a larger location has a lot to do with the individual market. So what we’ve found just based on our research is if you think of a location that might be out on a major freeway, yes, you’ve got people going through the drive thru, but you also have individuals who are using you as a rest stop, they want to come in they want to use the restroom, they want a little break from driving these could be individuals who drive for a living up to an including professional truck drivers, so that restaurant needs to be a little bigger, because the dwell times a little longer in the amount of your guests that want to use the inside tends to be a little higher. So out on the freeway, you know 100,000 cars a day from an average daily traffic standpoint, that restaurant probably needs to be a little larger, you go into an inner city location, you might have still have 70,000 cars a day, but so much more of your business is going through that drive thru because people are just on their way home from work or going out to let’s say a kid’s event or something more similar to that and they’re not coming in they just want to use that drive thru So somewhere between now based on the geographic

Ressa 24:12
location really really good perspective

when you mentioned the freeway and that was the restaurant that comes to mind with that is Cracker Barrel to me the iconic truck driver driving through need something stopped seeing that arrest up

and what have you. You know,

Walker 24:32
I I couldn’t think of a better example it’s been Cracker Barrel, right? And, you know, I think as much as that’s a sit down restaurant and they’re very focused on breakfast, when I look at how people love Cracker Barrel out on the freeway, there’s a lot of what they do that we’re kind of looking at as well and that’s, you know, making sure that we’re very focused on quality, but that we’re looking at larger portion sizes. I’ve never left a Cracker Barrel hungry. Right? You know, you’re not going to to, to Cracker Barrel and leaving saying well you know, I wish I would have ordered more you’re really happy with the portion and the quality and service. And there’s a lot of that and what we’re doing with these new menu iterations. So that Tuesday I mentioned with Pat lafrieda. You know, the standard portion on that is a half pound of shaved ribeye in, you know, it’s very indulgent, and it has carmelized, brown sugar, onions and American cheese and a ball does our role is that indulgent experience. And I think when you’re out on the road, some of those things, you know that comfort food is a good place to be for a lot of a lot of

Ressa 25:44
customers. Totally, since you oversee design and construction you built. Now you have the

New York location in Yonkers, the new prototype, and you’re going to be you’re opening up in bird Road in Miami,

what is it? What is it costing to build these?

Walker 26:04
Well, there’s a lot of variables that go into

Ressa 26:08
eliminating land costs, but just the physical.

Walker 26:12
You know, there’s still a number of variables in that, you know, whether we’re building a building, whether it’s just leasehold improvements, but typically what we look at, and this is not just Nathan’s, this is just my experience in the industry, what I personally look at is, you know, trying to get to a two to one sales to investment ratio, that tends to be a pretty scalable model. And what we see is probably an average for a drive thru location that we’ve been talking about, is probably in that $1.25 million dollar range. And, you know, obviously, tenant improvement allowance is going to impact that the physical site characteristics and where it is, it’s going to be more expensive to build in, you know, in an area outside of New York City, or on Long Island, and it’s going to be

Ressa 27:03
say, in Florida. And so you guys, were

looking at Florida, based on the you know, New Yorkers traveled to Florida retire in Florida, you land on Miami, was there anything unique about how that deal happened that

listeners might find interesting?

Walker 27:23
You know, it’s just it’s a very high traffic road. And you know, one of the reasons that I mentioned on why like drive throughs is I like that they afford convenience to the guests. And guests are very focused and demanding of additional convenience options, right delivery, and, you know, ordering through an app and all of those types of technologies we hear and probably listeners use. But the other thing I really like about drive throughs is there’s typically a direct correlation between average daily traffic, and the volume that that restaurants going to see. So when you’re making real estate decisions, that’s that’s a critical decision, right? You’re probably looking at a 10 year base lease, you’re looking at a lot of CapEx and cash expenditure to make that restaurant happen. One of the ways you can feel better about that investment is if you know what that average daily traffic is. And you know, you’re able to do a conversion rate or an interception rate. So we liked that space on bird growth, because it was a very high car count road, there’s a lot of traffic, and then it has a site characteristics we like you know, can you make it from the right lane? Can you make it from the left lane? Is it visible? Is it accessible? So it had the right type criteria, it had the right average daily traffic. And we liked the consumer basis there we like high frequency QSR users. Hispanics, there’s a lot of Hispanics in that area. They’re a fantastic customer. It’s a loyal customer. It’s a customer we do well with. So kind of everything hit check the box in that area.

Ressa 29:06
So one more kind of real estate, the question and then I’m gonna pivot in a second. You mentioned something I hadn’t heard much before, which was, you feel pretty good when the sales are about two to one, the investment you make. And so it’s a million dollar investment and you can do 2 million in sales. You’re feeling like the you know, you got a good shot at hitting the returns that you want that I got that

right, right. Absolutely. I

Walker 29:34
think that’s, that’s really an industry norm.

Ressa 29:38
And then so as it comes to

sales forecasting, and this is where my question

lies is are you guys using proprietary

data with everything going on in the world today in tech do you use Bob stayed in or one of these days? How do you guys you know, forecast

sales. So I’m certainly

Walker 30:00
Wondering if all those tools and I’ve used them and prior lives in prior positions. Currently at Nathan’s, we’re not using any of those more advanced real estate tools doesn’t mean that we won’t gravitate to them over the next several months, or maybe a year. Plus, right now, we’re really looking at the site characteristics, the visibility, the accessibility, and car counts, because those tend to be things that have a very direct correlation to the success of a restaurant. I think as we get more penetrated, and you begin to look at markets that maybe don’t check every box, it is more important to bring in more sophisticated tools. So you know, today, if I’m looking at a site, and it’s site criteria, kind of checks every box, and it has a very high car count. So let’s say 70,000 cars a day, you know, that’s really checking the box of those items that typically have the highest correlation to sales. If I begin to penetrate a market, let’s say, you know, 510 years down the road, and we have more restaurants in Miami, and the number of roads that have 70,000 cars are already populated was one of our restaurants. And we’re beginning to look at maybe lower traffic roads, then I think it’s even more critical to look at some of those more sophisticated tools you mentioned. We’re in a really nice place right now, where we’ve got enough restaurants that we have some size, we have some scale, we’ve got, frankly best in class brand awareness, but I’m not rubbing up against another Nathan’s restaurant so I can go out and really cherry pick these eight plus plus locations on a given market. And that’s that’s kind of a great place to be.

Ressa 31:48
So you mentioned bumping up against and I know in the food business, it’s everybody

QSR nationally, is there another

I know we’re moving away not just hot dogs, but is there another hot dog player or a someone you guys kind of view? Yeah, we this is you know, akin to McDonald’s,

Burger King. You know,

Walker 32:12
another really fun question for me to answer so I we don’t really look at another hotdog player at having our brand awareness or our quality or our scale. But kind of the second part of your question is we’ve positioned our menu we’ve got four menu pillars are hotdogs and fries, those iconic items that go back 104 years, our burgers and shakes, which are, you know, cooked to order fresh Angus burgers, or half pound, our premium subline which includes that Pat live free to cheesesteak and then a hand battered chicken program. And those four pillars we believe allow us to go really anywhere we want to go and not worry about who the adjacencies are. So if you look at brands like Chick fil A and raising games, these are fantastic concepts. I love them as a customer. I love them from a business standpoint, they are great brands, they have great service, they have great food. I believe if I build a Nathan’s Famous next one of those two fantastic concepts, they’re probably going to impact my chicken sales. But I’ve got a best in class burger line, I’ve got the best hot dog in the market. And I’ve got a great sub program. So while they’re gonna impact one part of my menu, I believe I can still go into that space and be very successful. So we’ve tried to design the menu that we’re not worried about rubbing up against one particular category or one particular competitor. In fact, I would love to be next to a Chick fil A they do a great job from site selection. I would love to be next to a Chick fil A as an adjacency

Ressa 33:56
Yeah, they’re best in class from a UV it’s really impressive what they’re doing from an AV perspective,

that’s for sure. Well deserved.

Walker 34:06
You know, I when I think of, you know, kind of my restaurant corporate spirit animals, I spent a lot of time looking at Chick fil A and In and Out Burger. And you know how they make decisions. They’re very careful with real estate. So these are brands that have huge guests appeal guests love those brands. But still, they’re not taking besides they take eight plus cites the best in the market. And I think there’s some learning there for anybody in the industry and anybody who’s looking to grow their restaurant portfolio. You know, these brands are at the top of their game and they are still not cutting corners from a site selection standpoint.

Ressa 34:46
When you check the

location and the operators and the location Miami

to where those existing buildings are ground up. So the the Yonkers

Walker 34:58
location actually is is not a new prototype. It’s where we’re testing our new menu items. So we’ve been in Yonkers for I think, more than 40 years. The, and the location and bird road is a conversion. And when we look at drive throughs, we’re looking at everything from ground up to conversion site, you know, kind of everything that might be an option for us, as long as we’re checking all of those other sites, criteria, and traffic boxes.

Ressa 35:31
Incredible and and I think,

Walker 35:37
you know, if I might add a little color, just myself personally, if you would have asked me that question about conversions 10 years ago, I might have been, I might have given you a different answer, I probably would have been more resistant to conversions. 10 years ago, I’ve been I would be more worried about why a restaurant failed in a location and wouldn’t necessarily want to bring, you know, a brand that I was proud of and trying to grow into a site that may have sailed for somebody else. I think right now in the industry, we’re probably a little over proliferated, and we are seeing a shakeout where some brands are not as poised for the next 10 and 20 years as they should be. And that shake out of some of those locations is affording an opportunity for brands like I believe Nathan’s to be that are poised for the next 20 years, to grab those sites that weren’t successful for the prior brand and will be successful for a brand that is really poised for growth in

Ressa 36:40
the future. That’s really,

really, really great perspective. And I think the listeners are gonna love that. Remove it from real estate for

a minute. So to me,

I love Nathan’s family loves Nathan’s born and raised in New York Metro No,

well, I guess it feels like for a while,

it’s been under the radar. And now you guys are about to put the pedal to the metal, what’s changed in like, what’s beneath it, what’s Nathan’s been up to, kind of all this time they’ve been

under the radar. You know, I think

Walker 37:21
there’s a lot of truth to what you said, the brand has been so successful in that licensing in that consumer packaged goods, were a guest that just as passionate about the brand is able to go into their local grocery, and you know, bring the package of our hotdogs home, prepare it the way they want, whether that, you know, grilled or steamed, they can put their toppings on are able to buy Nathan’s mustard, and that’s really allowed guests to experience that product. And it’s allowed the brand to be very successful. So it’s not that that’s changed. That’s still a very, very successful and growing part of our business with I think, a very bright future. I believe the shareholders and the leadership at Nathan’s said, you know, when we look at our overall business, there is a future opportunity for growth in the restaurant division. And let’s focus on that. And what I found over about a year now with the brand, is that, you know, my boss, Eric got off. And the board had been very, very supportive of the efforts that myself and the restaurant team had had to grow that part of the business. So I think the opportunity is now I think the brand is positioned for the future. As I mentioned, we’re not stepping away from the hotdog, we’re not changing it. We’re not taking those fresh cut fries. We’ve just added to the menu, a number of other items at that quality level.

Ressa 38:55
And so

Nathan’s is public, you know, and you mentioned the shareholders. I guess the stock this year has had a good year, and you’ve grown it a lot since 2015.

And what that

that growth has primarily been the licensing, and now you’re going to try and consumer packaged goods. And now we’re going to move into some of the restaurant growth is that if I unpack everything is that is that really a

good punchline? Yeah, I think it’s a good

Walker 39:28
good summation. I would certainly say the you know, the license team and the retail teams are also aggressively looking at answering consumer demand for those products. But I think we did a nice job of encapsulating

Ressa 39:43
anything else on

the listener the consumer anyone should know about Nathan’s


what you guys are up to what’s going on and the few Sure, Nathan’s?

Walker 40:02
Well, since you’re just outside of New York City, and you’ve heard me talk about innovation, one of the things kind of under that innovation and technology and convenience, and being the flavor of New York, we announced yesterday, a partnership with a cloud kitchen platform that will allow us to deliver all of these new products throughout New York City, a brand called could topi out of Dubai. And they’re working on growing out to seven cloud kitchens within the greater New York City area. And they’re partnering with us. So we’re looking at really being able to answer that consumer demand for New York’s finest top dog greatest burgers that Pat live free to choose, say, anywhere in the boroughs with this new partnership. So that I think that’s kind of a unique and very timely response as we get public yesterday,

Ressa 41:00
given the trend with Ghost kitchens, I think I we put that in the social media of a frog that’s gonna get a lot of buzz that’s really, really awesome. Is that

is that doesn’t mean that you won’t open up a bunch more restaurants in New York Metro. No,

Walker 41:21
the the agreement still allows us to open restaurants. And because we are very focused not only on franchising, but very concerned and invested in the success of our franchise locations and their owners, we still have the ability to deliver from those franchise locations. But when you’re looking at an area like Manhattan, or just to step outside of the United States, look at Paris, look at London, look at Tokyo, those are such difficult real estate market, it’s hard to find sides. The economics don’t always come together in as attractive way as we would like. But we still have a huge consumer demand. So we look at this as a way to answer this pent up consumer demand. In a way that makes sense. But it absolutely is not designed to say, hey, we’re going to do this and we’re not looking at growing restaurants in

Ressa 42:13
these markets. Understood.

Well, that was awesome way to to end. That’s really exciting stuff. I’m glad it just happened yesterday.

Walker 42:25
There. They’re very timely,

Ressa 42:27
very timely. That’s a really cool. Last part of our show. Whether it’s a bonus episode, or typical Thursday is called retail wisdom. I ask every guest the same three questions, James.

And tell me when you’re ready. All right, let’s

Walker 42:44
so this is like a lightning round. You got it.

Ressa 42:46
It’s like the lightning round. Let’s go. Question one.

That is commercial real estate advice to the listeners out there.

Ah, that’s commercial

Walker 42:57
real estate advice. I would say if you if you’re new to that part of the business, seek some really good counsel find somebody who really understands the industry. I think there’s great consultants out there. There’s some some real expertise if you don’t have that expertise in commercial real estate.

Ressa 43:20
Go find it. Cool advice. No one said that yet, but that’s a that’s definitely sage advice. All right. Question two. This one’s a fan favorite.

Extinct retailer that you wish would come

back from the dead.

Walker 43:39
Cannot Can I give you a restaurant? Yeah, well, and I’m such a fan of the restaurant industry. But you know, I mistaken ale and I know there’s talk of that brand coming back. If there’s a steak and ale and it opens in the United States. I’m going I would love to see that brand. Come back. And I don’t want it to change. I want it to serve the hot fudge cake and the brown bread and the salad bar, just like I had 2025 years ago.

Ressa 44:16
Fantastic. That’s a great answer. And you seem passionate about it. I hope they come back just so you get to

go. Absolutely. Third question. I am on

BJs Wholesale Club restaurant. This is like you’re gonna guess the retail price of a good

and all right. I am looking at it is sold out. A 45

pack of 1000 sheet one Clyde? Toilet paper by Scotts. It’s nine more roles than the normal. What is that price on PJs at BJs Wholesale Club.

So I’m not going to cheat even

Walker 44:57
though I’m standing at your computer and I’m going to say three $10.99 2599

Ressa 45:01
But thank you for playing

Walker 45:07
all right, I guess I don’t get toilet paper as my parting gift.

Ressa 45:11
But listen, James this was fascinating. This was awesome. It’s a brand I love the corn dogs are my Nuggets are my favorites, and I’m wishing you nothing but the best. Thanks so much thank you for listening to retail tools. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode

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