With new CEO Darin Harris at the helm, the Kearny Mesa-based company with over 388 corporate employees and field representatives plans to open new stores in both new and existing markets.
Enormous Growth Opportunity
“We have an enormous growth opportunity,” said Harris, who joined the company last year. “As part of the strategy, we are looking at flexible footprints − not a one-size-fits-all property with one drive-thru. We have redesigned our stores to fit in many different sites - it may be a drive-thru only location or an end-cap location at the end of a shopping center. Also, there may be Jack in the Box airport locations as well as other non-traditional locations. Or, dark kitchens, which is a new phenomenon in the culinary world. We recently signed a deal to open eight dark kitchens with Reef Technology.”
Headquartered in Florida, Reef touts itself as the largest operator of mobility, logistics hubs and neighborhood kitchens in the United States, Canada and in Europe. Earlier this summer, Jack in the Box announced it had teamed up with Singer and TikTok Personality Jason Derulo for “Jack and Jason Present: One in a Milli.” The virtual restaurant will feature curated Jack Hacks byJack Box, the primary mascot for Jack in the Box, and Derulo.
Mend Franchisee Relationship
Part of the growth strategy is also to use capital and invest in corporate stores alongside franchisees’ stores, said Harris.
But first, Harris wanted to its the company’s strained relationship with focus on mending franchisees, he said.
In 2019, after a contentious, multi-year battle with the company’s franchisees, Jack in the Box’s former CEO Lenny Comma resigned. In November 2020, five months after Harris came on board, franchise owners settled a lawsuit against the fast food chain over marketing strategy. The settlement ended a two-year dispute in which the National Jack in the Box Franchisee Association publicly called for the ouster of Comma.
“My strategy was to bring the team together,” said Harris. “I wanted to reenergize the relationship and reaffirm to them that we don’t succeed unless the franchisees succeed. So I worked to develop a meaningful relationship with them from day one. The first order of business was to reach out to the franchisees and talk to them about the challenges. But also, let’s get to know each other - tell me about your family, your kids. The second thing was making sure we treated franchisees as partners in strategy. The analogy I use, instead of running a four-person relay race, put one leg in the sack with me, let’s run together, let’s fall together, but let’s get back up and finish the race together and let’s both win. That is the difference in my approach.
“Historically, the company adopted a company-owned model, so, it was very much, here is what we do, go do it.” he continued. “Over the last 10 years, the majority of the stores became franchise-owned. Now we are centered around a partnership mentality.”
Opened 27 Stores
Despite the global pandemic, 2020 was a strong year for Jack in the Box.
The company opened 27 new stores around the country, said Harris, more than it had opened in the last 20 years. Part of the success, he said, was a result of the company’s drive-thru capabilities as well as the launch of its mobile app and loyalty program.
And, 2021 is shaping up to be another record year for the company. Jack in the Box has 16 signed franchise agreements to build another 64 locations, Harris said. This includes stores in Arizona, California, Idaho, Texas and Utah.
“We are excited about what the future will bring - we are constantly looking at growth and expansion,” said Harris. “We recently relaunched our franchising program to attract new franchisees to Jack in the Box. Those that are familiar with the brand, either came to California and liked the brand or are from California and want to bring it to where they are now. And that’s our goal: to bring Jack in the Box to different communities.”
Jack in the Box
CEO: Darin Harris
HEADQUARTERS: Kearny Mesa
BUSINESS: Fast food chain
REVENUE: $1.021B in 2020; $269.5M in Q3 2021
STOCK: JACK Nasdaq
EMPLOYEES: 388 corporate and field representatives
NOTABLE: Opened 27 locations in 2020, more than it had in 20 years.