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Arkansas Newk’s Serve Up Innovation

2 min read

Little Rock brothers Todd and Terry White earlier this month opened their sixth Newk’s Eatery, this one in Bentonville, at 1500 SE Eagles Way, across the road from Northwest Arkansas Community College.

And though I didn’t get to talk to the brothers themselves, their representative, Junior Sierra, did give me some interesting insights into the Newk’s brand, its development and the franchisees’ recovery from the pandemic.

The brothers’ restaurant businesses are Relentless Restaurants LLC and Dubberly LLC, both based in Little Rock, through which they operate Newk’s restaurants in Tahlequah, Oklahoma; Benton; Fayetteville; Fort Smith; Rogers; and now Bentonville.

Todd White is chief operating officer of the restaurant business and Terry is CEO.

Sierra, area director for Relentless Restaurants, said the Whites, who became Newk’s franchisees in 2015, chose the brand because of its food, its variety and its fast-casual concept. “Newk’s is a good partner,” Sierra said. Newk’s serves sandwiches, salads, pizza and soups.

The Whites had planned to open a location in Bentonville a few years ago, though the pandemic delayed those plans. But the city — and northwest Arkansas in general — has continued to grow, and Sierra specifically cited a proposal for a professional soccer club, USL Arkansas, to locate in Rogers as a motivating factor. “We truly felt that this was the right location that we selected a couple of years ago,” Sierra said. “We just wanted to make our brand a little bit stronger and significant in this area.”

Relentless Restaurants and Dubberly employ about 170 workers. The average restaurant size is 2,400 SF.

Although Sierra said he couldn’t provide revenue figures, he said that “Newk’s, across the board, we’re doing pretty good.” By the end of last year, sales had started to recover to pre-COVID levels, he said. Staffing also is starting to improve, Sierra said. “In the beginning of ‘23, it was very tough getting applicants to come in.”

The White brothers’ Fort Smith and Bentonville Newk’s locations both have drive-throughs, two of only four Newk’s in the country to have them, Sierra said. The Fort Smith Newk’s, in fact, served as the Newk’s brand prototype for drive-through capability when it opened in 2022, and Bentonville is “the refined product.”

Sierra said he expected the Newk’s brand, which has about 100 stores, to continue to develop the drive-through option, which accounts for about 20% of sales at the Fort Smith and Bentonville locations.

In December, FSC Franchise Co. of Tampa, Florida, parent company of Beef O’Brady’s and The Brass Tap, acquired Newk’s Eatery, founded in 2004 and headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi.

Sierra said the transition had been “very smooth. We haven’t felt any negative effects,” adding that FSC Franchise brings “a lot to the table for us, to help us along our way.”

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