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Huddle House Plots Fourth Consecutive Year of 30-Plus-Unit Growth

Decatur, Georgia-Following three years of double-digit chain expansion, 335-unit family restaurant operator Huddle House hit the growth accelerator again with plans to develop 37 restaurants in the 2002 fiscal year ending next April.

The regional chain's stepped-up growth effort is the vision of company president Phil Greifeld, who is completing his third year as chief executive of the 37-year-old Huddle House. Since Greifeld took the helm in 1997, Huddle House has opened 100 new locations and added 25 franchisees to the system, which now boasts 125 franchise operators. With a move last year into Virginia, Greifeld has also expanded the chain's penetration to 13 states. Plans now call for the Huddle House group to enter West Virginia during the current fiscal year.

Focusing initially on the chain's successful co-branding initiative, Greifeld also turned his eye to upgrading the chain's menu, d├ęcor and operational execution. From that effort came a new 1,700-square-foot, 62-seat Huddle House prototype, the economics of which has surpassed previous investment and return ratios.

With an average development cost of $550,000, new Huddle House units are said to be scoring sales that exceed the chain's $590,000 annual average. Sixty percent of all sales come from breakfast, which is also the company's highest-margin daypart, according to Greifeld.

Greifeld says the 24-hour chain is continuing to experience same-store sales growth. During the 2001 fiscal year, comparable-store sales rose 2.2 percent on average. The chain also broke last year's new store sales average by 10 percent, he adds.

Huddle House's three-year expansion agenda saw the addition of 32 restaurants in fiscal 1999, 33 more in fiscal 2000 and another 32 in fiscal 2001. The 37 units targeted for fiscal 2002, a 10 percent increase over last year's figure, would keep the chain on its double-digit course. -Nation's Restaurant News

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