Three years ago, Imvescor Restaurant Group Inc. embarked on a restructuring process to tackle sales declines at its restaurants. As part of this initiative, the company’s Bâton-Rouge brand has been undergoing revitalization, which includes a modernized brand identity implemented through incentivized restaurant renovations.
“The original Bâton Rouge, launched 25 years ago, had a typical steakhouse feeling to it. Today, it’s more of a sophisticated image, but not white tablecloth — it’s an image of more polished casual,” explains Stanley Goodman, COO, Bâton Rouge. “It’s catering to a much larger demographic, whereas before it was geared more towards baby boomers.” So far, five locations have been renovated under this restaurant-rejuvenation plan and three new restaurants have opened featuring the brand’s updated image. The updated design includes a brighter atmosphere and a larger, more inviting lounge-style bar.
The brand update encompasses not only image and design, but the chain’s menu. “We’ve gone back to being true to what we are, [which is] great ribs, steaks and chicken,” says Goodman. “It will continue to be about great food and great service. Everything we make in our restaurants is made from scratch. There’s a huge feeling of pride and ownership that goes into this and we want to get back to that [image].”
The strategy has resulted in measurable improvements in performance at rejuvenated restaurants. “We’ve seen substantial increases in SRS (same-restaurant sales) with our renovations in both Oakville and Vaughan [Ont.] locations,” say Goodman. “We’ve found by focusing on a wider demographic and creating more of a polished casual experience, we’ve seen double-digit increases in liquor, wine and beer sales.”
The success of the brand’s repositioning efforts has not gone unnoticed. “Many potential franchisees are interested in getting involved with us because our concept and UEM (unit-economic model) really works well,” says Goodman. “We’re returning to our core and I believe there is a massive opportunity for us in all markets, specifically in Ontario.”
In 2018, Bâton Rouge is set to develop six new locations in Quebec and up to four new restaurants in Ontario — 10 restaurants are also slated for rejuvenation this year. A key project for the year is the rebuilding of the brand’s original location in Laval, Que., which originally opened in 1992.
Looking further ahead, Goodman says the brand expects to open “between seven and 10 [units] every other year moving forward.”
Approximately 90 per cent of Bâton Rouge’s 29 locations are franchised, with the total cost to buy at approximately $1,860,000, including an initial franchise fee of $60,000.