Roy Rogers rides to restaurateurs' rescueIf corporate...

CONSUMER MARKETPLACE

November 14, 1992|By Michael Dresser

Roy Rogers rides to restaurateurs' rescue

If corporate groveling were an Olympic event, Hardee's Food Systems Inc. would be wearing a gold medal for a perfect "10."

This week, the Rocky Mount, N.C.-based chain reported strong third-quarter earnings and sales after a yearlong effort to atone for giving Roy Rogers the boot. Enough customers accepted Hardee's' profuse apologies to spark an 8 percent increase in sales and a 52 percent increase in operating earnings for the period.

Hardee's had good reason to be contrite. In one of the classic bonehead moves in recent business history, the company acquired the Roy Rogers chain in 1990 and promptly offended Roy's loyal followers in the Baltimore-Washington area by converting the restaurants to the Hardee's name and menu. Customers responded by staying away in droves.

But now the varmints who done Roy wrong have been run out of town. And a new Hardee's management team restored the old cowboy to his rightful place on the company's signs last spring.

Joe Masci, a Roy Rogers franchisee who converted to Hardee's and regretted it, said business is "just tremendous" since he made the switch back. "We've stopped the bleeding. Profitability is there."

Mr. Masci, who operates restaurants in Carroll and Harford counties, estimated that sales were up 10 percent to 12 percent since the Roy Rogers name was restored. He expects sales to increase further with the rollout this weekend of an advertising campaign for the new Roy Rogers Roasters, a honey-basted roast chicken dish.

W. Maurice Bridges, Hardee's' corporate spokesman, said that Hardee's has made other significant changes since Robert F. Autry took over as chief executive in July 1991. Mr. Bridges cited an effective new advertising campaign for Hardee's and the addition of a "signature burger" to compete with McDonald's Big Mac or Burger King's Whopper. That hamburger, served on sourdough bread, is called the Frisco Burger in Hardee's restaurants and the Sourdough Grill in Roy Rogers, he said.

Hamburgers aside, Mr. Bridges conceded that the switch back to the Roy Rogers trademark was the biggest factor in the company's turnaround.

"We had to really put our egos aside," he said. "What we decided to say is, when the customer speaks, we listen."

F&M opens store in Remington

North Baltimore received an economic boost recently when F&M Distributors, one of the nation's largest health and beauty aide chains, opened a 25,000-square-foot store at 242 W. 29th St. in Remington.

The $3 million store, which employs 35 people, is one of the largest free-standing retail investments in north Baltimore in the ZTC last decade. The urban location is also a departure from F&M's practice of choosing mostly suburban locations for its 115 stores. The Remington store, on the site of a former Cadillac dealership, is the ninth F&M in the Baltimore area.

Patty Klein, vice president of marketing for the Warren, Ohio-based F&M, said the company chose Remington because "we felt it was a market that was untapped in terms of low-priced retailers," with a half-million people living within three miles of the store.

Young entrepreneur already thinking big

Nobody can accuse Pamela Patnode of setting her sights too low.

The 22-year-old Ms. Patnode, a graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, will open a designer clothing store for girls Thanksgiving weekend at 8 Pennsylvania Ave. in Towson. She says it's the first step toward creating a chain on the scale of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc.

Ms. Patnode describes her new store, called Thing A Ma Jig, as "a kind of upscale Gap" that will offer an alternative to mass-produced fashions for girls aged 3 to 12. At first, the store will carry the work of other designers, but Ms. Patnode said she intends to go exclusively with her own designs by next fall.

Ms. Patnode, who counts her father among her investors, said the store will stress environmental concerns and will offer discounts to customers who bring in used children's clothing to be donated to charity.

The young entrepreneur said she decided to concentrate on girls' clothing because it's more fun than designing for women. "You can't do as much with prints and color in women's clothing as you can in girls' clothing," Ms. Patnode said.

Leedmark is talking turkey again

The official name is Leedmark, but you could also call it Turkeys R Us.

For the second year in a row, the giant "hybrid market" in Glen Burnie is weighing in with a high-profile turkey promotion in an effort to gobble up a big share of the Thanksgiving dinner business.

Last year Leedmark had customers standing in line to buy frozen turkeys at 28 cents a pound. Starting today, it will give away a Wampler Longacre turkey with each purchase of a Mash's whole cooked boneless ham.

Customers who don't have a taste for ham will be able to buy Wampler turkeys for 48 cents a pound, said Leedmark spokesman Edward Segal.

Last year's turkey promotion turned into a bit of a mob scene, but Mr. Segal said Leedmark will be better prepared for the crush this time -- with added checkout and security personnel. The hams and turkeys will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and Leedmark reserves the right to limit purchases, he said.

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