Sam Fox leans into pandemic, plans to open takeout-only restaurants in Valley

01 | 12 | 2020

One of the Valley’s most celebrated and successful restaurateurs will be launching two new takeout-only restaurants within the next two months.

Article originally posted here.

Looking at how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the restaurant industry, Sam Fox, founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts, has come up with a whole new concept and reimagined another to work in a world where fewer people are dining in at restaurants.

On Dec. 9, FRC will launch Fly Bye, which boasts a menu of Detroit-style pan pizzas, hand-breaded chicken tenders, crispy wings, salads and mozzarella sticks that the company describes as “soon to be famous.”

Then on Jan. 6, Fox will be launch a new version of his popular Flower Child concept that is a takeout-only restaurant. Flower Child will be located in Tempe and Fly Bye will be in Phoenix.

Like the number of other popular brands Fox has developed over the years – think Culinary Dropout, True Food Kitchen, North Italia – the company said these two new restaurants were meticulously thought over and designed to offer customers the best food and experience possible. But instead of a dine-in experience, the focus is on convenience, contact-free and easy mobile ordering. The restaurants are what is referred to as “digital only,” meaning customers have to order food online, through an app or through a third-party delivery service.

“Fly Bye and the new Flower Child experience are both designed to provide our promise for high-quality food in a new, fast and contact-free way,” Fox told the Business Journal. “These takeout concepts are exciting new opportunities for a new type of service that we are striving to perfect.”

Takeout kitchens

Part of that new service is changing how the food is prepared. Both the new Flower Child location and Fly Bye will have takeout-driven kitchens.

The new restaurants will operate in space already owned by FRC. Flower Child takeout restaurant will operate out of the Yard in Tempe, which is where Fox has a Culinary Dropout location. Fly Bye will be located next to the central Phoenix Culinary Dropout location at the Yard in the former kitchen space of Little Cleo’s, the FRC concept that closed down in 2018.

By operating in existing FRC spaces and by being only takeout or delivery, Fox’s new restaurants don’t require too many employees and don’t cost too much to run. If they are successful, Fly Bye and the new Flower Child could help increase the company’s overall profit margins.

These moves signal at least a portion of the future developments for FRC. While the company has been successful with its existing and newly opened restaurants during the pandemic, Fox has always been on the forefront of the restaurant industry, and it appears he has confidence in his company doing well in this new off-premises dining environment.

‘Digital food’

In October, David Gordon, the president of the Cheesecake Factory, which acquired FRC for $308 million in 2019, said Fox would be launching a “pop-up virtual concept,” referring to Fly Bye, but he might have sold it short. The idea of a “pop-up” implies that it was quickly devised and only temporary. That appears to be the opposite of these latest FRC ventures.

Fox has been playing with the idea of Detroit-style pizza — that will be served at Fly Bye — for years. When it became clear that a digital-only experience made sense during this time, he expedited the concept and menu development. Same with Flower Child. Adapting Flower Child to a digital-only platform has always been the long-term goal, Covid just sped everything up. Both new ideas are expected to be permanent and stay digital only.

“Digital food experiences will be integral moving into the future of food,” Fox said. “We’re jumping in feet first to bring the very experience to our guest in any variation.”

One of the reasons the Cheesecake Factory (Nasdaq: CAKE) cited for purchasing FRC was to use it as vehicle for developing new concepts. Whether it was restaurants that Fox already had going around the Valley or brand new ones, Cheesecake has given FRC a license to experiment and be creative, even during a pandemic.

“When we acquired FRC, we believed it presented a unique opportunity to serve as an incubation engine for concepts of the future,” Gordon said on an October earnings call. “These are two great examples of how we can continue to harness FRC’s creativity and experiment at a very cost-effective manner. We look forward to seeing how guests respond.”

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