You may be familiar with Checkers and/or Rally’s, one of the largest chains of double drive-thru restaurants in the United States. They’ve got it all: burgers, fries, milkshakes, you name it! But there’s a lot of things that you might not know about this franchise. Here are the Top 10 Untold Truths of Checkers and Rally’s.
10. Checkers And Rally’s Were Arch-Enemies
Depending on where you are in the United States, you might know this franchise as either Checkers or Rally’s. That can sometimes be confusing to customers, but there’s a reason for it – the two used to be separate companies. Not only were they different, but they were once each other’s main competitors! So, how did two enemies become the same company? Well, back in the day, there was once a man named James E. Mattel. He’d been curious about fast-food restaurants, so he took a job working for Wendy’s. Almost immediately, he noticed that at least half of the customers were going through the drive-thru and that most of the orders were for burger combination meals. Based on that knowledge, he decided to start his own restaurant. Based on what he learned, he went big on the drive-thru. Not only would he be getting good business, but he would also be saving money by not having to have dining rooms, big parking lots, and complex menus. In 1986, the first Checkers was born, located in Mobile, Alabama. While this was happening, the first Rally’s opened up with a very similar business model. Drive-thru, burgers, you know the drill. Both of these brands knew how to navigate the market. Since they didn’t have to spend money on dining rooms and a wide range of ingredients, they were able to serve burgers at a much lower price than their competitors, also known as the Big Four (McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Hardee’s). Eventually, they were engaged in an all-out war with each other, trying to figure out how to get their prices lower and lower.
9. Rally’s Had Other Things To Worry About
While the competition with Checkers was going on, Rally’s had a lot of other things that were keeping them from growing to their full potential. While it’s true that the company started out with some pretty good profits, things quickly took a turn a few years down the line. In 1993, the chain was set on expansion. But, things were growing too fast for Rally’s to keep up, and it ended up losing $12 million and 26 of its locations. Management tried to make up for these losses in a myriad of different ways; it installed computers to make things more efficient and tried to monitor their employees a little more closely. Still, in the following years, their losses worsened. In 1993 and 1994, their losses had increased by 100 percent! In order to fight this, it switched up the management team. Unfortunately, this really didn’t do anything to change the fact that the chain just wasn’t making enough money. The expansions, plus their price battle with Checkers was really shaking things up, and if it didn’t find a solution soon, it would go down in fast-food history as a short-lived failure. Even after all of its attempts to stop losing money, Rally’s just couldn’t rally itself or its customers. So, it did the only thing it could do; it joined the enemy.
8. Checkers and Rally’s Overcame Their Differences
Not surprisingly, this war made it hard for the restaurants to operate, as it was difficult to do well in such a competitive environment. In the mid-1990s, both chains realized that they would only be hurting each other, and so they worked out a non-compete deal to focus on developing their restaurants in a more productive way. Unfortunately, even this cease-fire wasn’t enough to save the companies. Rally’s, in particular, was hit hard. It had been trying to expand its operations but ended up just losing money because of it. The management tried and failed to fix the issues that were rising up within the company, but it wasn’t looking good. As the Big Four grew even bigger and began to dominate America more and more, the two companies came to the realization that they would do better if they joined forces. In 1999, they announced that they would merge operations, putting an end to the epic battle once and for all. The merger was completed in 2000, creating the ultimate double drive-thru behemoth. The headquarters were moved to Tampa, Florida, and with the merger of the two companies, they now had control of more than 800 restaurants in 28 states! Rally’s locations took on the iconic look of Checkers; the bold checkerboard squares, the bright red neon signs, even the chrome styling of their buildings. So, with the exception of the name on the signs, everything about Checkers and Rally’s is the exact same.
7. No Drive-Thru Blues
One month before the pandemic hit, Checkers and Rally’s got a new CEO: Frances Allen. Immediately, her plans were upended, as were everyone else’s, and Allen’s priorities shifted dramatically. Instead of focusing on growing the Checkers and Rally’s brand, she was now focused on keeping both the employees and customers safe, keeping the restaurant doors open, and making sure that the company didn’t lose too much money. As you probably know, the pandemic wrought havoc on everyone’s lives. The fast-food industry was no different; restaurant and bar sales dropped 50% in April of 2020, and things were only getting worse. Checkers and Rally’s, though, were already in a precarious situation. Their sales had been declining over the past three years, and the company had a growing mountain of debt which wasn’t getting any smaller. Many websites were speculating that the company might have to close down for good. So, pandemic or not, Allen definitely had her work cut out for her. But, for this drive-thru company, the pandemic may have been a blessing in disguise. Because of health protocols, the drive-thru has become more popular than ever. For many customers, the only place they feel comfortable eating is from the safety of their own cars or homes. Where other fast-food joints lost money because they had to close down dining rooms, Checkers and Rally’s didn’t have to deal with any of that. That means that it could focus on what was important; getting the customers the food they want.
6. Its Pandemic Plan
As we mentioned before, Checkers and Rally’s is doing surprisingly well in the pandemic. That being said, it doesn’t mean it’s not still going through hard times. So, how did the company respond to the news that things wouldn’t be going back to normal for a long time? Well, because their model was always focused on the drive-thru, it didn’t need to worry about adapting to that change. Instead, it has decided to modernize its restaurants, redesign its kitchens to be more efficient, and update older equipment pieces. In order to figure out what needed to change, Checkers and Rally’s did a time and motion study, which helped them find inefficiencies – like their crew members having to walk an unnecessary mile and a half every hour. If you ask us, that’s a pretty big inefficiency! All of these redesigns are thanks to a recent $20 million investment, quite hefty indeed. Their new CEO, Frances Allen, did a recent interview, in which she stated that the kitchen is the engine of the company’s growth. She also stated that the company is focusing on making their operation more employee-friendly, something that everyone should try to recreate. On top of the kitchen makeover, the chain is also getting an exterior redesign! Allen states that they’re going to try to make the company more competitive, so that’s something to keep an eye out for!
5. The Fry Love Express
After the year we’ve had, we’re all due for something good. And if that something good happens to come in the form of fries, so be it. As of March 2021, everyone’s favorite drive-thru, Checkers and Rally’s, is going to be on a roll; literally. The company is launching a series of events to share the “Fry Love” in honor of their Famous Seasoned Fries. You might be wondering, how do you share the Fry Love? What even is Fry Love? To answer the latter question, fry love is for people who love fries, duh. To answer the former, well, believe it or not, the company has created a Fry Love Express. The Fry Love Express is a 43-foot trailer with a fully functional fry kitchen, and it’s going on tour across America. It will be starting off its wonderful journey in Buford, Georgia, making additional stops in Texas and Missouri. But that’s not even the best part; if you happen to be visited by this fry fairy, you can expect not only free fries but also free hand sanitizer and shirts! On top of that, there’s also going to be a Fry Love Express photo booth, so you can hold onto that memory for the rest of your fry-loving days. For those of you concerned for the health of your fellow fry lovers, don’t worry because the Fry Love Express will be following all the necessary health protocols in order to protect its customers. If you want this magnificent beast to visit your town, all you have to do is go to their website and ask. Before you know it, you might get yourself the perfect little treat.
4. The Ultimate Burger
It really seems like Checkers, and Rally’s are trying to spice up their image this year; first, it redesigns its kitchens, then their exterior, and now this? The famous drive-thru chain announced the launch of their Super Loaded Buford Burger. If the name sounds like a mouthful, try taking a bite out of it! This thing is loaded with two beef patties, two slices of American cheese, caramelized onions, crispy fried onions, Famous Seasoned fries, two strips of bacon, dill pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise. The ingredients are layered between a toasted, bakery-style bun. Amazingly, the burger is still under 1,000 calories. Sounds like some kind of wizardry. If you want to make it even healthier (or unhealthier), you can customize it to remove some ingredients or add ones you like. While prices vary from location to location, it looks like this Super Loaded Buford Burger is going to be sold for $5.49, which is pretty good if you ask us. Look at all those ingredients, that’s an entire meal right there! Sides? Pshaw, this thing has the sides inside of it. In-sides, if you will. In any case, if you’re looking for something to spice up your life, you can be sure that the Super Loaded Buford Burger will be there for you.
3. Its Future Is Looking Good
As you know by now, Checkers and Rally’s has been through some hard times. When faced against the Big Four burger rivals, it’s hard for other chains to get a foot in. But, because of its drive-thru only model, Checkers and Rally’s had an advantage when the pandemic hit the world. Before, the company was struggling to keep up with the other fast-food giants. But now, things are looking up. While its profits in 2020 dipped at the very beginning of the pandemic, they were soon shooting upwards. Sales rose over 7 percent, giving the company much hope for the future. The new CEO, Frances Allen, said that the company is in an ideal position and that they’re going to be shaking things up going forward. She also attributed much of Checkers and Rally’s success to converting one of its drive-thrus to a dedicated e-commerce lane, helping to double delivery sales. A whopping two-thirds of Checkers and Rally’s restaurants have completed this conversation, with all the other restaurants due to follow suit in the near future. So, despite everything, things are looking up for this drive-thru joint!
2. It Awards Everyday Heroes
It’s no secret that the past year wasn’t exactly the easiest we’ve ever had. In a new ad campaign launched by Checkers and Rally’s, the company tries to focus on everyday heroes. It wants to highlight how hard this year has been for everyone and how even when things are tough, we can still do good things. The first ad features a young man helping his friend move; climbing stairs, carrying heavy boxes, loading a truck. In the end, he’s rewarded with a burger from Checkers and Rally’s, definitely a fitting reward for someone who’s worked so hard! Of course, at the heart of this campaign, the company wants to show its customers that it sees how hard they’re working. When asked about it, the Chief Marketing Officer of the company, said that it wants to give guests a stress-free and delicious respite. “This campaign represents so much more than just a marketing effort.” They also stated that while 2020 was a difficult year, the company has managed to thrive throughout it and that it’s carrying exceptional momentum into 2021. Of course, the new campaign also underlines many features that have helped shape the brand into what it is today; high-quality food, exceptional value, and crave-able, fun food!
1. The Fries Are The Most Loved
Does this really come as a huge surprise to anyone? In a recent survey done by Restaurant Business, Checkers and Rally’s fries came in first! In order to get there, the company had to beat notable competitors such as Five Guys and Chick-fil-A! But is this really that shocking? Considering the fact that the company has literally created a country-touring trailer to give out its fries, it seems like Checkers and Rally’s is confident in what it has to offer. When asked, a whopping 51% of customers rated Checkers and Rally’s fries most crave-able. Why? Well, it probably has something to do with the famous seasoning. Many people described these fries as “awesome” or “one-of-a-kind,” with some even going so far as to say that they were just the best around! The best part about these fries isn’t just the fact that they’re so delicious, but also how customizable they are. Do you like cheese on your fries? What about chili? Bacon? Ranch dressing? At Checkers and Rally’s, you can get any combination you could possibly want. We’re getting hungry just thinking about it…