Three local fast food restaurants undergo makeovers inside and out

Published 12:53 am Sunday, February 20, 2011

NATCHEZ — Three fast food restaurants in the Natchez area are being remodeled with the idea of quicker service, greater comfort and the latest restaurant technology.

Robert Hill, operations manager for Paradise Properties, has been on the job site at the Taco Bell on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive where the store is undergoing a transformation.

“We are upgrading to the ‘bold choice’ concept, which involves a radical remodel according to new image standards,” Hill said. “There will be more of a full-service restaurant feel, not the stainless steel commercial look. It will be more comfortable. There will also be improved speed service with a new pre-pay window.”

Email newsletter signup

Hill said upgrading equipment in the restaurant will improve speed and product quality.

Owners of the Taco Bell have reached the end of a 20-year lease.

“So to renew it, we had to bring everything up to new standards,” Hill said.

Hill said the workers are shooting for project completion sometime in the week of Feb. 28, depending on the delivery of materials and common construction obstacles that arise.

Dairy Queen on John R. Junkin Drive is open for business but draped in plastic.

The restaurant’s owners are also aiming for a sit-down restaurant approach.

“We’re going for a tablecloth atmosphere at fast food prices,” said Larry Gardner, owner of the Dairy Queen store. “It needed to be updated and expanded for more seating. It was time to update the exterior to the new building design, which includes new signs and a new patio.”

Gardner said 25 feet of space will be added to the front, a foyer will be added on the side and Dairy Queen’s restrooms will be expanded with additional stalls.

“It’s an all around update inside and out,” Gardner said.

Gardner said the remodel has taken a while due to soil issues. The ground had to be reinforced to avoid structural problems in the future.

Dairy Queen will continue to serve guests, but at some point close for a few days as the remodel nears completion.

“If we close that makes it hard on our employees,” Gardner said. “We will probably do training at that time so they don’t lose hours.”

Gardner said the Dairy Queen’s remodeling project should be completed by the end of March or early April.

“We’ve already had improvements because we added self-service drinks and coffee,” Gardner said. “We will be adding Orange Julius line of drinks, which is owned by Dairy Queen. Orange Julius is only putting their products in certain locations, and we met their qualifications.”

Table service will also be part of the restaurant’s new features.

“I don’t think the economy is as bad in Adams County as a lot of people think, but this is the best time for reinvestment like this,” Gardner said. “These are the lowest interest rates in the 35 years I’ve been in business. If you are thinking about making a reinvestment in your business, this is best time.”

Gary Small, who owns McDonald’s franchises in Natchez and Vidalia, recently finished remodeling his store in Morgantown. The company took a holistic approach to the modernization from the inside out.

“We refreshed the image with a new and different look,” Small said. “That’s a piece of the puzzle, but the remodel had a lot to do with capacity.”

Small said the store needed more storage and cooler space, and a way to serve customers more efficiently. The location now has two drive-thru lanes.

“The most important thing was to design the interior for comfort, and the exterior for speed,” Small said. “We want drive-thru customers to have orders taken more quickly, and with the two lines we can do that. On the inside, we wanted them to be more comfortable.”

Small said new equipment was added in the kitchen, counter space was expanded and an additional register was installed on front counter for faster service. With two self-serve beverage towers instead of one, customers can more easily access ice and drinks, so employees spend less time refilling ice and can focus on keeping the area clean and stocked.

“There is more room for customers to come in and place their order, and the seating is more comfortable,” Small said. “We also added a flat screen that has the news on all the time. People wanted that.

“When you’ve been here a while, eventually you have to modernize,” Small said.