- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 22, 2006

The ice-cream business isn’t just fun and games. Baskin-Robbins plans to begin a companywide remodeling campaign with renovations to its Washington-area stores this week.

“To remain relevant for over 60 years is hard work,” said Ken Kimmel, Baskin-Robbins’ brand officer. In making improvements, “the trick is doing things that people actually notice. Sometimes you’re talking to yourselves and you bring in the consumers and they don’t notice. That’s your worst nightmare.”

Fourteen Washington-area stores have undergone renovations this month that include a new logo, a more festive decor and a step for small children to peer into the freezers.

Gone are the beige and wood tones and subtle “coffee shop” colors, Mr. Kimmel said. They have been replaced with murals, bright colors and lots of pink — to match the chain’s spoons.

The new logo — a BR — still contains the company’s signature “31” if you look closely. The sloping side of the B and the straight left edge of the R are set apart in pink, forming the numeral.

“In a meeting you hear people go, ‘Oh,’ as they’re seeing the 31. It epitomizes the brand. It’s like the discovery when you go into a Baskin-Robbins,” Mr. Kimmel said.

The company has had the same logo since 1996 and the same design for eight years.

Mr. Kimmel said the chain is trying to remain on the same cutting edge as it was when it was founded in 1945 and wowed the chocolate-vanilla-strawberry world with the thought of 31 flavors of ice cream.

The chain’s Las Vegas stores were updated as a test a year and a half ago and reported double-digit sales growth, though Mr. Kimmel cautions that not all stores can expect the same results.

About half of the chain’s 5,600 stores will be remodeled in the next three years. Mr. Kimmel declined to say how much the renovations cost franchisees.

On Thursday, stores in Clinton, Hyattsville, Silver Spring and Waldorf in Maryland and Alexandria, Reston and Vienna in Virginia will sell $1 scoops and offer behind-the-scene tours of the new stores after 6 p.m.

Wait a minute …

Sick of waiting in line? Better pack your bags.

Baltimore and Washington were found to have the longest wait lines for counter service in a study by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, a New York trade group.

In Charm City, shoppers can expect an average wait of 5.13 minutes. In the District, it’s 4.58 minutes.

Phoenix, with a wait time of 3.05 minutes, was the fastest in the survey of the 25 largest cities in the country.

For the survey, the group sent 10,000 mystery shoppers to stores throughout North America to record their time in lines.

In the District, the worst wait times were at casual and fine-dining restaurants. The best times were at clothing stores.

In other news …

• The Downtown DC Business Improvement District has named its “Best of Downtown.” Among this year’s winners: The metal pot drummer at Gallery Place took home best street entertainer, best bike rack went to the one at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, and Navy Memorial Plaza was named best place to meditate.

Retail & Hospitality runs Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at [email protected] or 202/636-4836.

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