Roly Poly Franchise Systems
Issue Spring 11
A restaurant franchise founded out of a simple need for a healthier lunch option is continuing to expand. Roly Poly founders Linda Wolf and Julie Reid conceived the idea for the restaurant in 1996, when the two were looking for a quick and nutritious lunch option. With the usual options of hamburgers, fried chicken or overstuffed submarine sandwiches out of the question, they decided to make their own mark on the traditional sandwich, the company says.
Their idea was simple and effective: to combine vegetables and other natural ingredients together and roll them into a fresh flour tortilla. With their first Roly Poly sandwiches in hand, the two opened their first location in Atlanta in 1996.
“The verdict was immediate,” the company says. “Health-conscious customers loved the extensive menu that proved great taste and superior nutrition was possible in one sandwich.”
Today, the company has more than 125 locations in 24 states and continues to grow. Eight new locations opened in 2010 with three – in Pensacola, Fla., Wilton, Ct. and Prairieville, La. – opening in December alone.
The company already has 2011 plans for eight new units in 2011 as well a project with the Ohio based Mickey Mart chain of gasoline and convenience stores – starting with a new co-branding unit in Sandusky. “This is a nontraditional unit for us and we are excited to see what the feedback will be from our customers,” Wolf says. “We think the convenience factor will be a big hit.”
The company recently streamlined its menu of 52 sandwiches to 35 “Best Seller” selections. The move was designed to make the menu more customer friendly as well as to improve transaction time and staff efficiency. This past summer the company added Roly Yo, a fat-free and low-calorie Tart Frozen Yogurt to the menu.
“This is the nutritious desert and snack we had been looking for. With fresh fruit, granola and nuts to top it with, our customers love this healthy new addition to the menu,” Wolf says.
The company attributes its growth to the sheer variety of its tasty choices. Roly Poly offers sandwich options including unique and original combinations such as the basil cashew chicken sandwich, which combines fresh basil chicken salad, crunchy cashews, green leaf lettuce, roma plum tomatoes, fresh sliced avocado, alfalfa sprouts and Thai hot sauce.
“It’s fun to see how our customers respond to sandwich specials with arugula or jicama, fresh cilantro or rosemary – they want new flavors and interesting combinations,” Wolf says. “The challenge is to take these new ingredients and make a sandwich that is nutritious and tasty at the same time. When customers tell us they are addicted to one of our sandwiches, we know we have a winner.”
Roly Poly seeks out ingredients with a high number of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and a low number of calories, carbs and fat. The company sources daily fresh produce from local suppliers. Tortillas and dressings made from the founders’ special recipes ensure quality and consistency at every store.
“We work closely with a certified nutritionist to compute nutritional values for every menu item as well as for all of our specials,” Wolf says.
“The most frequent e-mail request to our office is for nutritional information, so we know what is important to our customers,” she adds.
The company is working on a gluten-free tortilla recipe to offer as a wheat-free option in the near future.
The company also prides itself on its level of service. “Roly Poly’s success in the quick-service healthy food category is due to the distinctive taste and quality of the product as well as the in-store experience and simplicity of the operation,” the company says.
Wolf and Reid take a hands-on approach with owners, operators and store staff, personally training staff at every new store opening and instituting an open-door policy.
“Franchisees and staff know that if they have an operational issue they have direct communication with us,” Wolf says. “Additional training comes from top franchise operators who provide their own invaluable perspective.”
“Together they foster the team spirit that is the foundation of the Roly Poly corporate culture,” she adds.
Extensive support is offered to new franchise owners through the company’s “Fanatical Franchise Support” system designed to ensure the new franchisee’s success.
“We know that Roly Poly cannot be the right concept for every applicant – 15 years of experience has helped us determine those that are best suited to our business concept and style,” Wolf says. “We fully train our operators and provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Their entrepreneurial spirit is what drives Roly Poly.”
Elements of the system include in-depth training at “Roly Poly University” – the company’s training program – as well as site selection, floor plan and store design assistance. The chain also offers franchisees ordering and purchasing guidance, on-site and telephone support, advertising materials and a marketing handbook.
”As proud as we are of our sandwiches we place equal importance on customer service and the instore experience,” Wolf says.
“Our loyal customers expect the same special service at every visit, and we try to exceed their expectations.”
Franchisees are also provided an operations handbook, which includes information on topics such as pre-store build-out, opening procedures, equipment operation and general operating instructions, as well as an employee and service handbook.
Wolf says the company plans to continue to be a leader in innovative sandwiches and salads.
“Our use of unique power food ingredients such as nuts, dried fruits, fresh herbs and whole grains will continue to distinguish our menu from other quick service sandwich concepts,” she continues. “We know that other concepts are looking over our shoulder for ideas; it is not unusual to see one of our signature sandwiches pop up on a competitor’s menu.”