Arby’s, like many fast-food chains, is feeling the heat from fast-casual restaurants, or those that promote healthy, responsibly sourced menu items. To deal with the mounting pressure, the Atlanta-based company is tailoring its restaurants toward the more upscale aesthetic found in competitors like Panera Bread and Chipotle, restaurants that comprise more than $16 billion in combined market share.
On Thursday, Arby’s announced the opening of a franchise in Lewistown featuring the new design. A grand opening at the restaurant, located at 202 Electric Ave., is scheduled for Monday.
“We’re very excited to be in the area,” said Andrea Coté Molitoris, the general manager of Shipley Stores, which operates the franchise.
Shipley Stores, a division of York energy supplier Shipley Energy, has had a franchise agreement with Arby’s for more than a decade, Coté Molitoris said, and operates four Arby’s in Pennsylvania. The Lewistown franchise, which has been open since Aug. 1, will create 45 jobs, the company announced in a statement.
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The franchise will offer free Wi-Fi and a revamped menu, one reflecting the changes taking place in the restaurant industry. Fast-casual dining was the fastest-growing food-service sector in 2015, according to market research firm Euromonitor International, seeing growth of $3.4 billion from 2014 to 2015.
Technomics, another market research firm, found consumers were willing to pay the higher prices often found at fast-casual restaurants. The trend bears out even more for millennials, a target demographic across several industries. A 2015 Morgan Stanley report found more than half of Americans ages 18 to 34 ate out at least once a week, and were more likely to recommend a fast-casual establishment over a fast-food alternative.
The shift has stirred fast-food chains to rejigger their identities. In 2011, McDonald’s rolled out a $2.4 billion plan to remodel its cafeteria-style restaurants into something more contemporary. Since then, the company has implemented new designs and an expanded menu. Even the containers and cups have been changed.
Arby’s launched its own remodeling campaign in 2014. Last year, the company added 60 U.S. restaurants and redesigned 179 locations.
The rebranding has been effective. Arby’s, which promoted a slew of new sandwiches in recent years, reported millennials made up 54 percent of its customer base in 2015 — up from about 38 percent two years earlier.
Arby’s, which is privately held, has 138 locations in Pennsylvania and more than 3,200 in country. The company saw a 3.7 percent same-store sales growth in the second quarter.
Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy