Wednesday, October 31, 2018

[OPA!] Chick-fil-A Venture Aims to Bring Fun Back to Buckhead Center

Red Wagon Ventures, created in 2017 as an affiliate of Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A, is planning to open the first ever location of "Kefi", a new venture conceptualized by the business unit.  Kefi, which invites visitors to "rearrange play," will open in Buckhead Triangle, the Selig Enterprises owned shopping center at Peachtree and Wieuca Roads in the heart of Buckhead.  According to assorted brand materials, "Kefi family hangouts" are likely to offer a host of services and activities for children and parents including childcare and educational activities as well as co-working and meeting space, among other amenities.
"We're a group of playful parents and experts who have a passion for designing amazing experiences for families of all types. We’ve created Kefi because we believe that kids deserve better play, and their parents do too."

A pair of permits were filed October 25 with the City of Atlanta for “KEFI Atlanta” at the Buckhead Triangle shopping center.   The permits - which anticipate $100,000 in work - are for interior demolition of the 28,693 square foot space that hhgregg occupied until 2017 when the electronics retailer closed all stores following their Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.  The store was originally occupied by Circuit City, another bankrupt electronics retailer that shuttered all of their stores in 2009. 

"Creating more moments of play, every day.  Welcome to a place for the whole family to hang out— where kids can enjoy and parents can recharge. With endless opportunities for kids to explore. Beautifully crafted spaces where parents can relax. Moments to enjoy together.  And expert Playsmiths who inspire our imagination to run free."

"Red Wagon Ventures was founded in January 2017 to create new businesses that deliver significant growth outside the current Chick-fil-A operations. We focus on turning ideas into businesses, rather than venture investing: Build, buy, and seed our big bets; Create partnerships around those bets where interests align; Invest in emerging technology and services that assist in bringing those bets to market. We embrace the entrepreneurial spirit of Truett Cathy and leverage the strengths of the Chick-fil-A business."

Drew Panayiotou, President & Managing Partner at Red Wagon, joined the Chick-fil-A business early last year after stepping down from his post as CEO of advertising firm BBDO's Atlanta office.  Panayiotou joined BBDO in April 2014 after serving as chief marketing officer at Best Buy.  It was a new role for the executive, who previously held in-house marketing positions with Walt Disney, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Johnson & Johnson and Eastman Kodak.  When at Atlanta based Coca-Cola, Panayiotou was instrumental in creating the Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) business.  The unit was charged with finding new platforms of growth for Coca-Cola that were not core to the business and has led to investments/acquisitions in brands such as Blue Sky, Hubert's, Suja, Zico and others. 

Kefi, a word of Greek origin, has been described by various Greeks as meaning "the spirit of joy, passion, enthusiasm, high spirits, overpowering emotion, or frenzy.  Kefi takes many forms and is usually, but not always, associated with the expression of positive emotion or fun."

Tim Tassopoulos, Chick-fil-A's President and COO, is himself Greek and Panayiotou is of Greek descent as well.

LinkedIn profiles indicate other members of the leadership team at Kefi include two Chick-fil-A executives and another from Atlanta-based Roam, a co-working space.

David Williams, VP, Marketing and Commercialization and Nathan McFarland, VP, Head of Technology, both still list  Chick-fil-A as "present," while Corey Wardell  VP, Finance & Operations, of Roam, also still lists the Atlanta-based co-working space as "present."  (It's entirely possible that they have all left their prior roles to join Kefi but not yet updated their employment.)

"There are few places parents and kids can go that recognize their need for unstructured fun, give them time to be themselves, and support them with community to navigate the tricky parts of everyday life.   That’s why we’re creating Kefi family hangout centers. To provide caring service in a wonderful environment for both kids and parents. To embrace the fluidity of the digitized world while celebrating the pure benefits of imaginative play. To give kids the best 90 minutes of their week and provide parents the space they need to thrive."

The newly launched Kefi website indicates that the concept will have four primary elements: 

Play - A unique combination of toys, technology, and creative staff to inspire imagination and ignite adventure. 
Parent Oasis - A space where parents can take time to relax, meet friends and get things done.
CaféA café with a menu full of healthy snacks, classic coffee drinks and our signature cookies. Fuel up or just hang out.
Retail ShowcaseLive demonstrations of toys and parenting products to continue the play back home for the whole family.

Kefi also lists three "Development Partners":  Brash Coffee Roasters, a small Atlanta-based coffee business, Moms on Call, a parenting resource firm, and Ravensburger, a German game and toy company. 

Brash will likely supply the coffee for the cafe while Ravensburger toys are sure to be featured within the retail showcase.   

There is no indication yet that Chick-fil-A restaurants will be part of the new venture, but one intriguing possibility is for the restaurant to have its Mealtime Kits available for pickup at the facility.  The kits, which Chick-fil-A introduced as a test in the Atlanta market in August, offer two options of meals, each suited for two people.  Chick-fil-A could easily offer them as a "grab and go" option to patrons of Kefi as a "value add" to their visit.  The company has revealed very little about its plans for Kefi and the Mealtime Kits are still being tested, but the convenience of offering them to busy parents could make the new concept even more appealing.

As a Millennial who grew up in the 90s, I very much miss the days of concepts like Discovery Zone, retailers like Zany Brainy, Learningsmith, Store of Knowledge & Discovery Channel store and SciTrek, the once popular Atlanta science museum.  Although I don't yet have kids of my own, the idea behind Kefi resonates with me and its mission to offer activities for children while simultaneously offering work and social space for parents seems sound.  Given the glut of empty big box spaces - in metro Atlanta and around the country - the Kefi concept could be a model for creative retail re-purposing in the years to come.

Real estate sources indicate that Kefi executives had considered Atlantic Station for a location but they were unable to get the size space they needed.  The company is reportedly targeting spaces 25,000-35,000 square feet.  Given the right circumstances, this could make them perfect for many vacant anchor and junior anchor boxes around town or potentially for portions of re-purposed Sears/Kmart stores.    

One area in particular where this concept could make sense is either at Northlake Mall or neighboring Northlake Tower Festival shopping center, both of which have a surplus of available space and a growing community of young families.  

Chick-fil-A got its start in Hapeville in 1946.  Today the company has over 2,200 restaurants and rang up sales of over $9 billion in 2017.

The new venture would eventually become its own company and would not be affiliated with Chick-fil-A Inc.  It would not receive funding from Chick-fil-A after its inception.

Kefi Buckhead is expected to open in 2019 followed by a second as yet unspecified location in Los Angeles in 2020.

Kefi representatives never responded to our request for comment, but the million dollar question is, will Kefi be open on Sunday?
What are your thoughts on Kefi and its launch in Atlanta?  Where would you like to see Kefi open their next location?  What was your favorite toy growing up?

Please share your thoughts below 


Anonymous said...

Interesting and informative. But I don't think you'll find many people who agree Peachtree/Wieuca is 'the heart of Buckhead"

Unknown said...

That's not Buckhead triangle (Roswell/Ptree/Piedmnont)

Katherine S said...

This sounds awesome - looking forward to checking it out!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I get the concept yet, but I have confidence that pretty much everything Chick-Fil-A does will be a home run.

Fun Fact: Tim Tassopoulos was the manager of the first ever (and recently rebuilt as covered heavily by ToneToAtl) free standing CFA at N. Druid Hills and Briarcliff in 1985! That was my first job and he interviewed me. He certainly ran an airtight ship.

Anonymous said...

Word on the street is the Meal Time kits are not staying around after the test run so I doubt they would be offered here.

Anonymous said...

I am probably their target market... 27 stay at home mom with a 10 month old. My husband is in tech and works wherever he's feeling around the city. Anyways, we are so excited for this! I love the idea of a co-working space included. The hardest part for my husband going into a traditional office is that he doesn't want to be far away from his family. He refuses to deal with traffic. The primary office that he goes to is within walking distance to our home. It would be wonderful if he could arrange meetings in this space and I can drive us and hang out all in the same building and it not be super awkward. This is a home run for our family!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like what people do now go to the mall find a place to eat let the kids play I've got a brilliant idea why don't people stay home with their children and let them play in the yard and cook a meal together another reason not to be home with the children and spend quality time I understand the concepts I just feel as Americans we're getting further and further away from being with our children

4LifeNLiberty said...

I agree!! And the current MK Ultra sign on its facade is massively disturbing!

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