Metro Atlanta seems to be a popular testing ground for fast-food brands. Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy’s late-in-life pet projects, Truett’s Pizza Cafe and the Hawaiian-themed Truett’s Luau, have been operating in Fayetteville for years. Arby’s has a test kitchen in Perimeter Center. Krystal’s headquarters are in Dunwoody. Schlotzsky’s, which launched with “The Original” sandwich (ham, salami, and three cheeses with black olives, red onion, lettuce, and tomato on a Sourdough bun) in Austin, Texas, in 1971, moved its corporate headquarters to Atlanta last year.
Last week, the sandwich chain, which has more than 350 locations worldwide, launched a brand new concept, “Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery,” at 2260 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Duluth.
“Duluth looks a lot like America,” said Schlotzsky’s president Kelly Roddy of the decision to launch there. “If you look at where Schlotzsky’s builds today, you see restaurant growth in suburban America. Duluth looks a lot like suburban America. It’s a great community to test out a concept.”
Roddy says that Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery is a nod to the company’s Texas roots, but also that the concept was chosen because “what’s cool about Austin matches up to what Millennials are looking for.” Research performed across the country by the company showed that its aspirational customers, Generations Y and Z, “wanted their food to be more adventurous and bold. They like variety, and healthy options are important to them.”
How that’s playing out in Duluth: Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery will serve beer and wine (“local, craft beer,” of course); bakers will make sourdough bread out in the open for customers to watch; and the menu, inspired by Austin’s food truck scene, will offer tacos, sliders, and tater tots, in addition to some top-selling Schlotzsky’s standards like The Original.
“Austin is very eclectic,” says Schlotzsky’s executive chef Maira Morales. “I want people to to taste how unique it is and and how diverse it is by providing many different layers of flavor in one bite.” Morales says her flatbread with carnitas, pineapple, and mint, and her hickory-smoked brisket mac and cheese are two dishes that show off Austin’s culinary diversity.
The space, which is designed with reclaimed wood and found objects—container doors act as booth dividers, for example—will also host live music performances. “Probably three nights a week, some independent, small artist will [perform] a set with an acoustic guitar,” Roddy says. If the Duluth location performs well, Schlotzsky’s will beta test in another market in next fall, and eventually the rest of the existing Schlotzsky’s locations could transform into Schlotzsky’s Austin Eateries.