Though four Checkers locations shut their doors in Jacksonville 10 years ago, the fast-food restaurant is on the verge of a resurgence in the Northeast Florida market.
Checkers franchisees Karen Weber and her husband, Rich, bought a location on Beach Boulevard three years ago and immediately began improving the struggling restaurant.
The Cleveland natives had extensive restaurant backgrounds and previously churned out their own recipes at the Donut Stop in Bunnell in 2010.
After deciding to leave the doughnut business, Weber said she and her husband decided to try their hand at a operating a franchise.
“When we had the doughnut shop, getting people into the store was mainly done through word of mouth,” she said. “A franchise is an established brand and has its own policies and procedures in place to follow.”
Once the Webers officially became Checkers franchisees, they were sent to a corporate store in Orlando for four weeks of training.
“Since we’re husband and wife, we’re a pretty good team,” Weber said. “I do a lot of the financial work while Rich works in the store and does hands on training with the employees.”
The couple improved the guest experience at the Checkers location at 11361 Beach Blvd. and immediately saw an uptick in the number of returning customers.
“Guests won’t spend five to 10 minutes in line, so we lowered the speed of service to under 200 seconds and that’s helped us build our clientele,” Weber said. “We also provide consistency in our products and friendly service.”
In August, the Webers were chosen as the brand’s “Rookie Franchisees of the Year.”
“We put in a lot of hard work to turn the store around, so it was a great recognition for us,” Weber said. “It makes us feel very proud that the company saw what we were doing.”
Robert Bhagwandat, director of franchise development for Checkers and Rally’s, said the “Rookie Franchisees of the Year” are chosen by the company’s executive staff, operations team and their peers.
He said they measure guest satisfaction, growth of the businesses in consumers served and revenue.
“Karen and Rich blew away these metrics and were hands down the leader for our rookie franchisees,” Bhagwandat said. “They are so in love with the brand, and genuinely enjoy waking up to run their business every day.”
The Webers are gearing up to open their second Checkers location at 7214 103rd St. in Jacksonville later this month and are already looking for a third.
“Jacksonville has a lot of areas where Checkers has been in the past and new areas where the brand could flourish,” Weber said. “We’re forward thinkers, so we’re looking for the pocket areas that have dense populations to give the brand revitalization in Jacksonville.”
After the corporation took over the operation of five Jacksonville Checkers restaurants in 2013, Bhagwandat said guest traffic has increased substantially. He added that the Webers have helped the company’s reputation in the market.
“With Karen and Rich leading the franchise charge with their current location, it’s only helping the brand to connect with the local community at a higher level,” Bhagwandat said.
Weber said though she and her husband are focused on the two additional Checkers locations, there’s no telling what the future holds.
“We’ll look at how the market reacts to them and what’s available moving forward,” she said. “There’s always a possibility of expanding.”