When Jim Mattei founded the Checkers drive-thru hamburger chain in Mobile 25 years ago, his first store was on Airport Boulevard at Westwood, in the city's midtown.
Mattei has long since sold out, but in November, the chain, now headquartered in Florida, opened the prototype of its new store just next store just next door to its first site. For the short time between grand opening of the new and demolition of the old, the two styles stood side by side.
The double drive-thru is gone from the prototype, says Marc Mediate, vice president of operations for Checkers. Though the new design appears bigger, it maintains the small footprint that makes it easier for franchisees to buy in, but it now sports a cover over outdoor seating and easier access to walk-up windows.
If the new design works well at the chain's original site, it will be the new normal, Mediate says.
Checkers has 800 stores in about 20 states, 500 operated by franchisees and 300 by the company. Alabama is home to 35 from the original in Mobile all the way north to Huntsville.
By Nedra Bloom