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    Restaurant Chains Turning to C-stores to Drive Growth

    Huddle House and Fazoli's laud success in their partnerships.

    NATIONAL REPORT -- With retail real estate commanding a premium today, restaurant chains have sought out new ways to expand their businesses. Partnering with convenience stores is one of the top solutions they discovered.

    Both Huddle House and Fazoli's are two restaurant chains that have already successfully teamed up with c-stores and travel centers. Last year, Huddle House, especially known for its breakfast foods, franchised two of its quick-service restaurants (QSRs) within Pilot Flying J travel centers. The rollout was so successful that the QSR expanded to additional Pilot Flying J travel centers in North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

    Huddle House wanted to team up with Pilot Flying J because the travel center operator is reinvesting in and upgrading its facilities, Brian Kendrick, Huddle House's director of development, told Nation's Restaurant News.

    "As the economy improves, there's going to be more and more commerce, especially with professional drivers going back and forth across the country," Kendrick told the news outlet. "We want to partner with the leaders of the travel industry, and the fact that Pilot is putting so much capital into these locations -- who wouldn't want to get that exposure in a fully upgraded center?"

    Fazoli's has held a similar sentiment. The Italian food purveyor opened its first c-store location at a Par Mar in Fairmont, W. Va., location, which Fazoli's said is currently performing well. So well, in fact, that a second location was added to a travel center recently, as it partnered with Chintu Patel in a Shelbyville, Ind., location.

    According to Craig Sherwood, vice president of franchise development for Fazoli's, the QSR plans to open four more c-store or travel center locations this year, with the possibility of opening as many as eight.

    "If gas prices are the same as the guy across the street, what differentiates c-stores are the offerings inside," Sherwood told Nation's Restaurant News. "The opportunity for us to differentiate a convenience store with our offering, as opposed to typical sandwiches, is we can really go after the meal replacement piece that's becoming more important."


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