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Arby's CEO: It's about being authentic

Nicole Sinclair
Markets Correspondent

Arby’s, the second largest quick-service sandwich chain with 3,300 restaurants worldwide, just reported a strong third quarter, posting US system same-store sales growth of 2.4%.

This result reflects continued improvement—aided by new products and strong advertising—for the restaurant chain ever since Wendy’s (WEN) sold its struggling sister company to Roark Capital in 2011, retaining a an 18.5% stake.

This quarter marked the company’s 24th consecutive quarter of same-store-sales increases and 15th consecutive quarter of industry outperformance.

CEO Paul Brown said the company’s outperformance is based on its unique position right between the quick-serve (QSR) players like McDonalds (MCD) and the fast-casual players like Darden (DRI) as it continues to emphasize unique offerings and convenience.

“We’re winning against the QSR players by having higher quality food priced very affordably that you can still get through a drive-through,” Brown said. “And we’re winning versus the fast-casual players by having comparable quality food priced at a $1.50 to $2.00 less that you can get with more convenience.”

(Image: Flickr / Mike Mozart)

A vote for venison

Brown said the company’s focus on core proteins has also contributed to its success.

The company is experimenting with venison as well.

“It’s something we’re doing just to appeal in certain markets to hunters over a short period of time,” Brown said. “We thought it’d be a nice thing to highlight we are all about the meats.”

Arby’s received outsized attention by Jon Stewart, as the butt of many jokes. And the company’s choice to embrace the humor and play back is reflective of their overall, Brown explained.

“We really want to be seen as authentic,” Brown said. “That’s a little bit of how we played with Jon Stewart in a way. When he started poking fun at Arby’s, we didn’t get defensive about it. We kind of played into it. That’s the kind of personality that people like to associate with. It really all starts with being authentic and that’s carried through to a lot of other types of marketing we’ve done.”

Brown, who highlighted investments in TV and social media, said that being a private company has allowed his team some more latitude in making fast decisions.

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