How Charleys Philly Steaks tamed growth outside of malls

Charley Shin may have been just a student at Ohio State University when he started Charleys Philly Steaks in 1986. But when the restaurant took off, Shin set a goal of opening 3,000 locations – one for every 100,000 people in the United States at the time.

Thirty-six years later, the cheesesteak concept still falls short of that goal, with around 700 locations in the United States, but Shin and his team at Columbus, Ohio-based Gosh Enterprises, which also includes Bibibop Asian Grill and Lennys Grill & Subs among its portfolio – believe they have finally found the right path to bring them to 3,000.

While Charleys originally focused its expansion primarily on malls, it has since expanded its non-traditional growth to locations such as military bases and even Walmarts. Importantly, Charleys also mastered malls and independent locations, paving the way for greater expansion in the United States.

In this episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches, Shin talks about the brand’s non-traditional growth strategy and how it’s evolved, and explains why he thinks Bibibop could be even bigger than Charleys.

In this conversation, you’ll find out why:

  • Success as a restaurateur starts with quality and presentation
  • Cook in front of your customers to improve the perception of quality
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again – and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again
  • A non-traditional growth strategy is great for tapping into a captive audience, but once you’ve established an affinity with guests, consider spreading your wings.
  • Even if your first act is a huge hit, it might not be your last.
  • You need to find ways to stay relevant in rapidly changing consumer dynamics

Contact Sam Oches at [email protected].

Dino S. Williams