via @Fazolis on Twitter
via @Fazolis on Twitter

11 Unlimited Facts About Fazoli’s

via @Fazolis on Twitter
via @Fazolis on Twitter

After nearly three decades and billions (that’s right: billions) of free breadsticks, the chain known for real Italian, real fast has been through a lot. But even if you know your way around the baked ziti or the Primo Submarino, we’re willing to bet there are a few things you don’t know about Fazoli’s.

1. IT STARTED IN THAT HOTBED FOR ITALIAN CUISINE: KENTUCKY.

Jerrico Inc., a Lexington-based restaurant company that also at the time owned Long John Silver's, opened the first Fazoli’s in Ashland, Kentucky in 1988. A year later, it opened four more in nearby Lexington, and soon after expanded to Orlando. Today, there are 220 Fazoli’s restaurants across the U.S.

2. IS IT FAST FOOD OR FAST CASUAL? MAYBE BOTH?

The brass at Fazoli’s refers to the restaurant as fast casual, putting it in the same company as Chipotle and Panera. But they concede that offering “real Italian, real fast” means they share more customers with the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King. “Our research shows us that when they want to go some place nicer than McDonald’s or Burger King, they’ll go to Fazoli’s,” Jon Quinn, the company’s VP of marketing, told the trade publication Fast Casual.

3. THEIR MENU NEEDED SOME WORK.

After years of lackluster sales, Fazoli’s decided it needed to turn things around. And that meant taking a good hard look at its menu, which tended to focus on fast over flavor. Or, to put it more bluntly, “Customers were leaving because the food quality was terrible,” an Ohio franchisee told Columbus Business First. So Fazoli’s hired a restaurant consulting firm, and last year introduced 20 new menu items, including pasta dishes, new sandwiches and salads, and a build-your-own pizza.

4. THEY’RE ALSO UPDATING THEIR STORE DESIGN.

With the menu upgrade comes a fresh new look for Fazoli’s locations. The new restaurant prototype includes LED lighting, green awnings, and a more prominent logo. There’ll also be a 35-foot-tall tower rising above it all like a beacon for unlimited breadsticks.

5. LOCATIONS GO THROUGH HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF BREADSTICKS PER YEAR.

People are serious about those unlimited breadsticks. One manager in Michigan estimates he goes through more than 600,000 a year, or 1000 per shift. The company, meanwhile, estimates its restaurants make more than 100 million breadsticks every year. Do the math over three decades, and we’re talking about billions of breadsticks.

6. THEY’VE SPED UP DRIVE-THRU SERVICE.

The average time spent in the drive-thru line is going up across the country. But Fazoli’s is trying to bring down its times. An internal program called “Drive Under Five” aims to get orders filled in under five minutes by re-training employees, improving sign boards and putting food in more efficient packaging.

7. MANAGERS WILL REFILL YOUR DRINK.

As yet another part of its recent revamp, Fazoli’s decided to bring managers out from behind the counter. Their new role as “guest ambassadors” has them mingling with customers, re-filling drinks and other small tasks. Topic for conversation: What do they do with all the leftover breadsticks?

8. THEY TRIED OPENING AN ITALIAN CHIPOTLE.

Back in 2014, Fazoli’s tried its hand at a different Italian restaurant concept—one in which customers filled wrap-like “piadas” with customizable ingredients like steak, chicken, and vegetables. Sound familiar? The “Italian Chipotle,” as many customers referred to it (official name: Venti-Tre), debuted in Baltimore. Within a year, it was closed.

9. SENIOR CITIZENS GET THE VIP TREATMENT.

Lots of restaurants offer a senior citizens discount. Fazoli’s has its own club. Created for what it calls “experienced eaters,” Fazoli’s Club 62 gives out special meal deals, $1 drinks, and legitimate bragging rights against children and grandchildren. There’s an official card, of course. The company also recently gave away free drinks to anyone playing bridge in its restaurants.

10. SOME FANS TRAVELED 400 MILES FOR THE BREADSTICKS.

Unlimited breadsticks are nice, but worth a three-hour drive each way? Four friends from Orlando certainly thought so. After their local Fazoli’s closed down, they drove up to the nearest location in Georgia. The restaurant plied them with all the breadsticks they could handle, and even picked up the tab.

11. THEY WANT COUPLES TO GET ENGAGED IN THEIR RESTAURANTS.

For a few years there, Fazoli’s offered a sweetheart of a deal: Free spaghetti for a year to any couple who got engaged inside their restaurants on Valentine’s Day. Sounds romantic, no? Sadly, the company hasn’t renewed the offer since 2014.

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Why a Readily Available Used Paperback Is Selling for Thousands of Dollars on Amazon
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iStock

At first glance, getting ahold of a copy of One Snowy Knight, a historical romance novel by Deborah MacGillivray, isn't hard at all. You can get the book, which originally came out in 2009, for a few bucks on Amazon. And yet according to one seller, a used copy of the book is worth more than $2600. Why? As The New York Times reports, this price disparity has more to do with the marketing techniques of Amazon's third-party sellers than it does the market value of the book.

As of June 5, a copy of One Snowy Knight was listed by a third-party seller on Amazon for $2630.52. By the time the Times wrote about it on July 15, the price had jumped to $2800. That listing has since disappeared, but a seller called Supersonic Truck still has a used copy available for $1558.33 (plus shipping!). And it's not even a rare book—it was reprinted in July.

The Times found similar listings for secondhand books that cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than their market price. Those retailers might not even have the book on hand—but if someone is crazy enough to pay $1500 for a mass-market paperback that sells for only a few dollars elsewhere, that retailer can make a killing by simply snapping it up from somewhere else and passing it on to the chump who placed an order with them.

Not all the prices for used books on Amazon are so exorbitant, but many still defy conventional economic wisdom, offering used copies of books that are cheaper to buy new. You can get a new copy of the latest edition of One Snowy Knight for $16.99 from Amazon with Prime shipping, but there are third-party sellers asking $24 to $28 for used copies. If you're not careful, how much you pay can just depend on which listing you click first, thinking that there's not much difference in the price of used books. In the case of One Snowy Knight, there are different listings for different editions of the book, so you might not realize that there's a cheaper version available elsewhere on the site.

An Amazon product listing offers a mass-market paperback book for $1558.33.
Screenshot, Amazon

Even looking at reviews might not help you find the best listing for your money. People tend to buy products with the most reviews, rather than the best reviews, according to recent research, but the site is notorious for retailers gaming the system with fraudulent reviews to attract more buyers and make their way up the Amazon rankings. (There are now several services that will help you suss out whether the reviews on a product you're looking at are legitimate.)

For more on how Amazon's marketplace works—and why its listings can sometimes be misleading—we recommend listening to this episode of the podcast Reply All, which has a fascinating dive into the site's third-party seller system.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Sam's Club Brings $.99 Polish Hot Dogs to All Stores After They're Cut From Costco's Food Courts
Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In early July, Costco angered many customers with the announcement that its beloved Polish hot dog was being removed from the food court menu. If you're someone who believes cheap meat tastes best when eaten in a bulk retail warehouse, Sam's Club has good news: The competing big box chain has responded to Costco's news by promising to roll out Polish hot dogs in all its stores later this month, Business Insider reports.

The Polish hot dog has long been a staple at Costco. Like Costco's classic hot dog, the Polish dog was part of the food court's famously affordable $1.50 hot dog and a soda package. The company says the item is being cut in favor of healthier offerings, like açai bowls, organic burgers, and plant-based protein salads.

The standard hot dog and the special deal will continue to be available in stores, but customers who prefer the meatier Polish dog aren't satisfied. Fans immediately took their gripes to the internet—there's even a petition on Change.org to "Bring Back the Polish Dog!" with more than 6500 signatures.

Now Sam's Clubs are looking to draw in some of those spurned customers. Its version of the Polish dog will be sold for just $.99 at all stores starting Monday, July 23. Until now, the chain's Polish hot dogs had only been available in about 200 Sam's Club cafés.

It's hard to imagine the Costco food court will lose too many of its loyal followers from the menu change. Polish hot dogs may be getting axed, but the popular rotisserie chicken and robot-prepared pizza will remain.

[h/t Business Insider]

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