I've been watching for customer reviews of that new Shakey's Pizza and Grill that opened on Azusa Avenue in Covina, CA on September 7th, 2006. I have not found one. Has anyone been there since it was converted to the new concept?
There has been nothing of substance in the media until a few days ago with an article on Shakey's that appeared in newspapers of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group. It will remain free for a few more days here, as well as some of LANG's other sites: http://www.sgvtribune.com/search/ci_5256489
Besides the hype, the Shakey's CEO did give a few details of the changes Shakey's is making. From the article:
"They improved product quality - changing from skim to whole milk mozzarella cheese, fresh sauce packed once per quarter instead of once per year, upgraded toppings and an improved dough. All frying oils used to cook chicken and MoJo potatoes are trans-fat free. They are working to eliminate trans fat from other sources, such as dressings and gravy, Pulido said. Specialty pizzas were added to the menu and the company is starting to remodel its stores."
There are also has new web sites for the Jacmar Companies and Shakey's. There is a Flash-heavy page about the new Covina location on the Shakey's web site: http://www.shakeys.com/covina.html
This is a place I could see myself going to. The 'put on the feedbag and then stuff the Ziploc bags in your pockets' buffet seems to be gone. Industry publications reported that Shakey's signature dishes, the pizza, Mojo potatoes, and fried chicken will remain on the menu. It will remain a 'place your order and pick it up when ready format', despite the "Pizza and Grill" in the title. I can't find any articles that state there will be wait staff. New dishes include salads, burgers, sandwiches, and microbrewery beer.
Shakey's CEO Tim Pulido did say in the recent article that sales in Covina increased 60% after the remodel. Not mentioned is if this is because they just jacked up the prices, or if they are actually moving more food and drink. The pizza and grill is the only concept that Shakey's is currently willing to franchise, per their web site. As someone who watched the Shakey's chain disappear along the eastern seaboard and Florida over a 15 year period, I would welcome a return of Shakey's for their signature dishes. What I will be watching closely is how many franchises they sell. Shakey's will have to compete with all the other franchisors out there in getting operators to take a flyer on the continued viability of the Shakey's brand. Shakey's has a great deal of nostalgia value, but also some dreadful non-company owned restaurants still out there as I write this.
The Jacmar Companies used to have a list of the Shakey's they owned and operated on their web site. I used that list to guide me in the Los Angeles area. Their restaurants were pretty good; the rest were a crap shoot. They took that list down with the redesign of their web site.
There are also two long running threads on the pizzamaking.com web site from people trying to develop copycat recipes for Shakey's original thin crust and pizza sauce. There are posts by people who can't possibly be tracked down describe how they used to make the sauce and dough when they worked there. The process changed over the years, as more of the food was prepared in factories. The posters must all have worked there after Shakey's became a formal franchise. Everyone described adding proprietary pre-packaged spices, dough additives, etc. so no one had the complete recipe. I can see why fans want to recreate favorite Shakey's dishes: because they don't want to travel to California.