- By Gary Dinges American-Statesman Staff
Schlotzsky’s, the sandwich chain that got its start on South Congress Avenue nearly 50 years ago, is embracing its Austin roots with a new restaurant concept that debuted locally on Thursday.
The new Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery, at 3944 S. RM 620 in Bee Cave, features an open kitchen, interior walls made of recycled wood, corrugated metal and other eye-catching materials, and funky design elements such as an “Austin Born & Bread” lighted sign in the dining room.
“Nothing really matches,” Schlotzsky’s president Kelly Roddy told the American-Statesman. “It looks very much like an independent.”
There also are a number of new menu items, many inspired by Austin’s food truck culture. The sandwiches diners know and love are still there, he said, but visitors will also find sliders and street tacos for sale, among other offerings.
“Everything we’ve done has been inspired by the culinary spirit of Austin and the culture of Austin,” Roddy said. “It’s the same Schlotzsky’s it has always been, but we’re really claiming we’re an Austin eatery. The biggest difference is really the look and the feel of the restaurant.”
The new Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery serves beer and wine – something the chain, which is now largely based in Atlanta, has been rolling out – and has a happy hour, with drinks starting at $4 and food starting at $5.
The beers at the new locations are Austin-influenced, Roddy said, including Austin Amber, Weekend Warrior, Love Street and Austin Eastciders.
The Bee Cave restaurant is the second Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery in the nation built from the ground up, although some existing restaurants already have or soon will switch over to the concept, including one on Research Boulevard in North Austin.
The goal – one of several, actually, according to Roddy – is to position Schlotzsky’s, which has more than 300 locations, to better connect with millennials.
“We reach everyone at Schlotzsky’s,” he said. “Our customer is everyone. We have a wide-reaching customer base. In the case of millennials, our research has found they really like to share – and all our new dishes are very shareable.”
Jackie Albert is the owner of the Bee Cave restaurant. In total, she operates about 30 Schlotzsky’s franchises – half in the Dallas area, half in Central Texas – and has been a franchisee for about 25 years, seeing plenty of changes along the way.
“I’ve been with them since 1995,” she said. “Every time, it’s better. We’re always getting better as a brand. I think this one is going to knock it out of the ballpark.”
Setting up shop in Bee Cave was appealing, Albert said, in part because of the demographics in the area.
Also, “looking at the whole Austin metro, there was a void in Bee Cave,” she said.
“We’re really hitting on every cylinder,” she said. “The color palette is very appealing and the food reaches a wider range of people. I’m hoping to see young and old and everyone in between.”