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Huddle House Plots Fourth Consecutive Year of 30-Plus-Unit Growth <b></b>

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

The regional chain's stepped-up growth effort is the visionof company president Phil Greifeld, who is completing his thirdyear as chief executive of the 37-year-old Huddle House. SinceGreifeld took the helm in 1997, Huddle House has opened 100 newlocations and added 25 franchisees to the system, which now boasts125 franchise operators. With a move last year into Virginia,Greifeld has also expanded the chain's penetration to 13states. Plans now call for the Huddle House group to enter WestVirginia during the current fiscal year.

Focusing initially on the chain's successful co-brandinginitiative, Greifeld also turned his eye to upgrading thechain's menu, décor and operational execution. From thateffort came a new 1,700-square-foot, 62-seat Huddle Houseprototype, the economics of which has surpassed previous investmentand return ratios.

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

Greifeld says the 24-hour chain is continuing to experiencesame-store sales growth. During the 2001 fiscal year,comparable-store sales rose 2.2 percent on average. The chain alsobroke last year's new store sales average by 10 percent, headds.

Huddle House's three-year expansion agenda saw the additionof 32 restaurants in fiscal 1999, 33 more in fiscal 2000 andanother 32 in fiscal 2001. The 37 units targeted for fiscal 2002, a10 percent increase over last year's figure, would keep thechain on its double-digit course. -Nation's RestaurantNews

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