Rally’s Chain Eyes Returning to Valley Market

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Rally’s hamburger chain, which last operated in the Mahoning Valley a decade ago, is looking to reenter the market.

Tampa-based Checkers & Rally’s Restaurants Inc. envisions opening eight stores over the next three to four years in the Youngstown metropolitan area, Bruce Kim, director of franchise development, said Thursday.

Rally’s, which merged with the Checkers chain in 1999, opened stores in 1989 on Market Street in Youngstown and on an outparcel at the Eastwood Mall Complex in Niles. The Youngstown store closed in 2003; the Niles store two years later.

“There were some closures in the past,” Kim said. “Right now we’re on the upswing.”

The company’s current CEO, Enrique Silva joined Checkers/Rally’s nine years ago and streamlined the company to the point it’s “time to carefully and strategically go back to markets that want us back,” he continued.

Checkers/Rally’s has 838 locations. The company maintains the Rally’s name in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky because of brand recognition in those markets.

Rally’s has five locations in Akron and Canton, and is looking to add five more to the area, beginning with Youngstown in 2017, according to a company news release.

Discussions are underway with potential franchisees who cannot be identified due to confidentiality agreements, Kim said, noting they are local business owners.

The company is about two to four months away from finalizing a deal to move forward with a franchisee, he continued. Once that deal is in place, the first store will take up to a year to open.

Checkers/Rally’s recently launched a new build-out program to streamline development and improve cost-effectiveness, cutting the timeline by up to 12 weeks. Model 4.0 is the prototype for new stores and comes in three formats, including two environmentally friendly options, Kim said.

One is a value-engineered brick-and-mortar building with a stainless-steel look, new fascia and new checkered pattern. The second is a smaller, modular building constructed offsite then placed on a location and connected to utilities. The third uses a third-party vendor to repurpose shipping containers.

The modular and shipping container units are smaller than traditional stores because they are designed for exterior walk-in refrigeration units and about $100,000 to $150,000 less expensive to develop, Kim said. Checkers/Rally’s began rolling out the concept six months ago nationwide as a vehicle to grow more quickly and more efficiently.

Which of the three concepts is used will depend on the desires of the franchisee involved, the site and any applicable local ordinances or regulations.

“Not every community will allow a modular building or a repurposed shipping container,” he said. “Sometimes the franchisee may not want that.”

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