Puck Express Expands Through Franchising <b></b>

Beverly Hills, California-Chef/restaurateur Wolfgang Puckintends to redefine quick-service cuisine through new deals tofranchise his Wolfgang Puck Express concept nationwide andoverseas.

Boasting that his Express menu and counter-service format wouldeclipse mainstream QSR rivals, Puck says, "McDonald's andPizza Hut are fast food of the past."

Introduced at the San Francisco Macy's department store in1993, the small-box Express variant of the Wolfgang Puck Caféconcept has grown into a 15-unit chain located primarily inairports and the upscale Gelson's Market grocery stores.Puck's company operates four Express units in California andFlorida, with the remainder controlled by licensees, including HostMarriott, Skyport and the University of Southern California.

With the planned late-May filing of UFOC documents with stateauthorities, the firm plans to sign 15 to 20 franchisees from coastto coast, each of which would develop 15 regional Express unitsover five years.

Express division director Don Karas says existing Express units,which vary from 1,000 to 2,000 square feet, average $1.8 million insales annually. The smaller units have a $400,000 build-out cost,he says, and generate a 36 percent profit margin before occupancycosts and franchise fees. Although occupancy costs could varydepending on lease terms, franchise fees are 5 percent of grosssales, he adds.

The Express outlets serve a menu of about 20 items, priced from$2.95 for a small soup to $12.99 for a whole rotisserie chicken.-Nation's Restaurant News

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