Huddle House changing more than menu
Published 10:30 am Wednesday, May 7, 2014
FRANKLIN—Ashley Whitehead wants folks to come to the Huddle House for more than just scrambled eggs and waffles.
“I’m thrilled when people think of us for breakfast,” she said. “But I also want people to think about us for lunch and dinner.”
To encourage that thinking, the menu is being expanded. In addition to daily specials, the Armory Drive location is offering a few new items, such as pot roast — “that seems to be a favorite” — chicken and dumplings and mac and cheese.
To further draw hungry customers, the restaurant will undergo noticeable changes inside and out. That will include painting and a new color scheme.
“We’re very excited to start remodeling,” said Whitehead. “That’s happening starting this week. People should notice changes right away.”
But she knows that a new dish or two and a fresh coat of paint are not enough.
To further enhance the dining experience, the staff are being retrained and rehired with the goal of creating and maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere at the Huddle House.
Although the place has dropped its round-the-clock operation, the hours are still extensive, 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. By the way, on Friday nights children ages 12 and under can eat free with a paying adult.
“I’m very passionate about customer service,” she said.
As operations manager for the three locations — Bracey, Emporia and Franklin — Whitehead is especially mindful of all the sites. She recently she hired a general manager for Franklin.
Meanwhile, as she put it, “I cook. I serve. I can do it all.”
Whitehead’s not entirely alone in this venture. Jim Whitehead, her husband, and Charlie Parker are also co-owners of Southern Virginia Foods LLC, which bought the aforementioned Huddle House diners.
The Whiteheads’ introduction to the restaurant business came through Jim’s previous work with Parker Oil Co., which she said had a restaurant, Simmons Travel Center.
On learning of the Huddle Houses becoming available for sale, Jim decided to make a transition to manage as a personal challenge to himself.
“My husband and Charlie saw it as a business opportunity,” said Whitehead. “Franklin was an ideal location for us. We actually live in Emporia. We’re very hands-on owners. We knew people in the area and saw it as a great opportunity.”
Formerly, she was an elementary school teacher, and made the transition because of the chance for flexibility, such as making her own hours.
“We opened the Emporia location in 2009, that was the first. Bracey was that September. We bought the one in Franklin this past November,” said Whitehead. “H20 Hospitality was the previous owner.”
As another example of the partnership’s expertise in restaurant management, she added that the company will have the Bojangles restaurant at the Love Travel Center opening later this year.
Huddle House, in case you didn’t already know, is based in Atlanta, Georgia, with 400-plus restaurants. But the company is not content to stay chiefly in the South.
“They’re growing,” she said, adding there’s an expansion going as far west as Texas and as far north as Pennsylvania.
As a member of the Franchise Advisory Board for Huddle House, Whitehead has an avenue to suggest improvements.
“It gives me an opportunity to voice opinions of what will and won’t work in the area,” she said. “I’m real excited.”