Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information about Golden Corral’s expansion plans for Homeward Kitchen.
- Golden Corral Corporation will open a fast casual concept called Homeward Kitchen in December in Southern Pines, North Carolina, the company said in an email to Restaurant Dive.
- The company said it plans to expand the concept into other areas soon, but did not say how many units or where they would open.
- The new concept coincides with the company’s plans to grow its buffet concept nationwide with new development agreements signed by existing and new franchisees.
Golden Corral aims to reach a century of operations. The company is halfway there, and it expects Homeward Kitchen to be a part of its expansion plans during the next decade, while reaching a new customer demographic, according to a May press release.
Golden Corral’s same-store sales were up 14% last year compared to 2019, underscoring the company’s momentum as it look to continue growing.
The fast casual concept came about during the pandemic when buffets were under a “tremendous amount of pressure,” Golden Corral Corporation president and CEO Lance Trenary said during a July CNBC interview. Management was thinking of other ways that customer could access comfort foods through different off-premise channels, like a drive-thru. Over the past year and a half, the company worked with its franchisees to develop this concept.
The brand is expected to provide franchisees a way to diversify their restaurant portfolios while staying within the Golden Corral system, the company said in an email to Restaurant Dive. The company has identified at least 500 markets nationwide that would work for the fast casual concept.
Homeward Kitchen will offer dine-in, takeout and drive-thru ordering, with two areas for dine-in and a specific area for online and third-party takeout orders. The menu leans into comfort food of which Golden Corral is known for but also includes new flavors and easy items to eat on the go, the company said. Its menu will include a 12-hour slow-cooked pot roast with homestyle vegetables, fried chicken, a half-pound meatloaf sandwich, made-from-scratch Cajun mac and cheese balls, fried green tomatoes and Nashville and hot honey dipped chicken sandwiches. The restaurant will also offer breakfast options like sandwiches and bowls, overnight oats and breakfast bakes.
Homeward Kitchen will target a younger demographic, and more on-the-go customers compared to Golden Corral.
“The inquiries we’ve gotten across the country are just amazing,” Trenary said. “We think it’s going to be something that scales very quickly and really plays into a great hand for us.”
The first Homeward Kitchen is being built in a former Chick-fil-A location that is about 4,200 square feet, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. Golden Corral is also piloting a full-service steak concept, GC Grill House by Golden Corral, in Lake Placid, Florida.
“We think Homeward Kitchen can be a staple in every community,” said Trenary in a press release. “We’ve put together an outstanding team to lead the opening of the first Homeward Kitchen, and once we have successfully launched in Southern Pines, we will quickly pursue growth opportunities nationwide.”