Why Twin Peaks is Soaring to New Heights
You could label Twin Peaks “old school” and it would fit. What are the 83-unit chain’s DNA points, as chief executive officer Joe Hummel puts it?
Employees and training.
“I think hospitality is a big part of our business,” says Hummel, who joined the brand in 2011 and became an executive member in July 2017. “The tech piece definitely accommodates you getting from point a to point b. But there’s no memorable hospitality experience if you take the human element out of it.”
Founded in 2005 in the Dallas suburb of Lewisville by Randy Dewitt, now the CEO of Front Burner Restaurants, Twin Peaks just put together a monster 2017, and nothing about its success strayed from its ethos, Hummel says. In Knapp-Track’s comp sales for concepts with sales of $200 million-plus, Twin Peaks was No. 1 with same-store sales of 5.1 percent for the year versus the prior-year period. It experienced positive sales 45 of 52 weeks and has posted nine periods of positive comps. According to TDn2K’s Black Box data, Twin Peaks it outperforming the bar & grill category by 7.4 percent in comp sales and 6.3 percent in comps traffic. And Hummel says Twin Peaks is up 5.5 percent in 2018 already. “We’re progressing right along with the same trend,” he says, “and we don’t see it changing.”
Hummel says the factors driving Twin Peaks’ success don’t need to be analyzed by a statistics prodigy or panel of restaurant experts. The brand offers a unique product and has “assets in our toolbox that are pretty extensive,” Hummel says. And Twin Peaks simply works to execute its strengths better than anybody else.
If you’re going to hang your hat on hospitality across a multi-unit system, training is essential. About four years ago, Twin Peaks took its program to the mobile front. It was a platform spearheaded by the chain’s vice president of training and the company “just put our Twin Peaks touch on it,” Hummel says. When it went mobile friendly, it reached another level.
Twin Peaks has a gauge system that tracks the performance of every employee. Workers onboard. Then, as products and operational changes are implemented, the “fuel gauge” resets so each employee can go through testing and stay on top of tasks. And Twin Peaks’ management can track where a specific employee stands at any time, and where their fuel gauge is as far as training is concerned. This process is evergreen and always evolving.
“If we want to go back and refresh them we can refresh them. If someone struggles in a certain aspect of the offerings or the restaurants we can go back and reset them so they can go back and do further training,” Hummel says. “It’s a really on-time, real-time, fuel gauge that we can assess every employee, and that goes from all the directors of operations all the way down to sports staff, heart of the house, front of the house, and so on.”
For employees, ongoing training can lead to becoming a certified trainer, which allows the worker to access a lot of different opportunities outside their store. That includes being a part of new openings, recertification of teams, and more.
“New-store openings are a heck of a charge for people when they see it. Watch a building start from the ground up and really get the first guest in there,” Hummel says.
It helps the brand grow as well, he adds, since it provides a great succession plan for everybody, from support team to front of the house.
“We’re able to keep the training piece relevant and quick enough,” he says. “We know people’s attention spans are sometimes shorter due to all the different tasks they’re working on. So if we’re able to keep that contact quick, short, and relevant, it makes it usable.
Having a strong workforce is the heartbeat of Twin Peaks’ success. There’s a lot going on in each unit, and a bevy of investments being made in décor, culinary, and beverage, but if employees can’t speak to those benefits, what’s the true ROI?
“It’s one thing to be hospitable, but to actually help our guests navigate their way through their experience, it all boils back to training,” Hummel says.
Barbell is a menu strategy many credit for igniting the fast casual movement. It’s a major driver for Twin Peaks and its experiential model, Hummel says, since the brand wants to thrive in every occasion and cater to all guests. In mid-February, Twin peaks announced an extension to its beverage program that added a fresh selection of wine, bourbon, whiskey, and tequila to all of its menus.
“At Twin Peaks, we are going back to basics in order to move forward,” Jamie Carawan, VP of food & beverage innovation, said at the time. Our new beverage menu features Classic Whiskey Cocktails perfect for the whiskey novice and the aficionado.”
That’s the basis of many of Twin Peaks’ decisions. There’s a low-price end offering and a high-price end. “So that way we’re never a veto factor,” Hummel says.
Offering a barbell approach, plus innovation and from-scratch cooking, is what’s growing Twin Peaks’ guest counts, Hummel says. And not just that, he adds, “but that repeat user continues to grow also because you’re able to experience multiple different things through the week, throughout the month.”
Hummel says Twin Peaks does a robust lunch offering. It hosts big parties, business dinners, and is a destination for sporting events, even opening earlier to meet the occasion when it calls for it. It’s also a spot for people to drop in and grab some drinks. Toss in the barbell approach and people don’t have a reason to leave or go elsewhere, he says. They’re unlikely to find all these experiences in one place.
Twin Peaks keeps one menu across all dayparts and stays open (where laws allow it) until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and until midnight the rest of the week. Guests can stick to the “handhelds” menu in the $8–$9 range, order a soup or salad for even less, chicken and waffles for dinner, go big with a 13-ounce ribeye, or look to the bigger dishes, which can run the gamut from $11 to $15 to $18.
Lunch and late-night have been strong elements for Twin Peaks’ revenue, Hummel says. He credits the fact the chain’s menu stays consistent and doesn’t box people into certain offerings at any given time. So somebody who loves the lunch menu doesn’t have to set their alarm at noon each day. If they want what they want at 11 p.m., they can have it.
Another strategy Twin Peaks deploys to inspire loyalty is tossing the playbook on table turns. The chain doesn’t care if you sit down for five hours or 20 minutes. And there’s no real strategy for upselling other than presenting an environment guests won’t want to leave.
“Our strategy is we want our guests to stay as long as they desire. We don’t want to force them into buying things. We want to make sure our hospitality encourages them into buying things,” Hummel says.
Twin Peaks is designed with this mind. There are, on average, anywhere between 55–70 TVs in any restaurant. The seating tops are varied, from two-tops to four-tops to six-tops. There are standing room-only areas. “We’re OK if they stay and watch a bunch of games,” Hummel says. “That’s what we’re here for. We want to provide the experience.”
Twin Peaks has steady growth on the horizon. There’s a Glendale, Arizona, unit expected to open in the spring and an Ohio store set for July. Hummel says “a lot of new franchise development [is] opening up in 2019,” as well.
“We know where our whitespace is when it comes to the map. And it’s pretty easily viewable for anybody who wants to look at it,” he says. “So we want to obviously capitalize on a lot of that whitespace out there. There’s plenty for our brand to grow in the continental U.S. and international growth is definitely on the forefront of our thought process right now.”
Twin Peaks currently only has one store overseas—in Russia. But Hummel says they’ve received plenty of interest, including from people in Mexico, Canada, and Asia, who want to get involved with the brand.