Roy Rogers chain may return to Delaware

Roy Rogers restaurants may return to Delaware, cowpokes.

Jim Plamondon, who once chauffeured the cowboy star, bought the Roy brand with his brother Pete in 2002. They want to repopulate Delaware with the stores known for a trio of entrees — burgers, roast beef and fried chicken.

The Plamondon Companies, the brothers’ company, is looking for franchisees who can plop down an initial investment of $767,250 to $1,580,950, which includes the $30,000 franchise fee. Franchisees also require a minimum net worth of $1 million, with at least half of it in liquid assets.

The initial investment varies, depending on whether the restaurant has a small footprint in a shopping center or if it’s a freestanding unit with a drive-through, which drives up the costs.

The owners said there’s pent-up demand for Roys, and that whenever Roys have reopened in neighboring states, there have been around-the-building lines on opening days.

The brothers, whose father ran the chain when Marriott owned it, want to return it to its 1980s heyday. The only missing piece would be the late Roy Rogers.

Original Roy Rogers

“He was an awesome guy. I actually remember being his chauffeur at the ripe old age of 17 for one of the personal appearances he made,” Plamondon said. “Roy was an incredibly humble movie star. There would be thousands of people showing up at these personal appearances, yet he was riding around in my father’s station wagon. He could have been in a limousine.”

Nowadays, there are 55 Roys from New York to Virginia, down from 648 in 1990. Meanwhile, the number of fast-food restaurants in the U.S. has risen to 247,191, and chicken fans can now choose KFC, Popeye’s, Boston Market or Chick-Fil-A and others, but Plamondon thinks there’s still room for Roys.

“We’ve always felt we were a cut above the typical fast-food restaurant. I think there is a niche somewhere between a McDonald’s and a fast casual restaurant like Panera. We kind of compete with both. The competitive landscape is intense in the restaurant world. Oh, my gosh, if you read the trade press, you’ll see the restaurant growth is greater than the population growth. We have to focus on being a cut above.”

Plamondon touted Roy’s nine sides, three kinds of potatoes, fresh-never-frozen chicken, choice-grade roast beef, its fixin’s bar and the entrees he dubs the “holy trio” — burgers, beef and fried chicken.

During the fast-food restaurant’s ’80s heyday, there were 12 Roys in the First State. For his do-over, Plamondon is most interested in franchisees who know neighborhoods and have relationships with banks, because they hope to someday see Roys rising from Rehoboth Beach to Wilmington’s central business district.

In addition to those locations, Plamondon’s short list includes New Castle, Claymont, Dover, Lewes, Concord Pike, Kirkwood Highway, Christiana Mall area, just west of Wilmington and the Del. 1-U.S. 40 interchange.
Delaware’s proximity to Plamondon’s corporate office in Frederick, Maryland makes it a natural extension, but
the crowded franchise restaurant market could be a drawback.

“We’ve got to find the right operators, and that’s easier said than done,” Plamondon said. “They have to have the financial wherewithal for sure. They have to have the experience — know how to develop and operate multiple restaurants. And third, and probably most important, you have to have someone who shares your values. Roys always has been a brand that our guests have looked at as a cut above a typical fast-food restaurant, so we have to find franchisees who share those values.”

Plamondon believes Roys can make a comeback: “The Delaware market was successful for Roy Rogers back in the heyday, and I truly believe there’s pent-up demand for the brand today. So, if we can find quality operators and good locations in Delaware, I think it will be successful.”

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