Founded in Omaha in 1969, Little King offers some great flavors for diners. For us, Tim and I like the #11 on the menu board, which happens to be the most popular sandwich. The Royal Treat sandwich consists of ham, hard salami, Mortadella, pepperoni and provolone cheese.
This was one of my family’s favorite places to eat when we visited Omaha, before moving here.
The first location was at 80th and Dodge streets. At that time, Dodge Street was the main street in Omaha, and, thus, the busiest.
From that first store, the Werthheims actually grew the franchise into a national brand. About 100 stores were scattered throughout 17 states. At the height of its success, the Werththeims sold the brand to another company.
It was not a good move for the Little King brand. About half the stores were no longer part of the chain within a few years, said Bob. They apparently didn’t maintain the quality that the Werthheims prided themselves on.
The Werthheims bought the company back nearly 18 years ago.
It’s been a challenge to get the franchise back to its earlier success. Currently, Little King has nine locations in Omaha, Lincoln and Council Bluffs (Iowa).
Bob ran the company nearly by himself for about 15 years. Little King has again been sold, but the Werthheim touch remains. Bob stayed with the new company as the COO.
After 44 years, everything needs a makeover. One of the things that Bob knew had to happen is that Little King needed a fresh look. A local advertising agency is responsible for the new look and design of the Little King franchise. Don’t worry, the food and Little King difference has not changed. There are a handful of locations that have been completely converted over to this new design. Bob believes that this will really help to reinvigorate the brand.
Little King plans to continue its growth, but slowly. They plan to add two locations by the end of the year, and then 5-10 in Nebraska during 2014. The goal is to get back to some of the original smaller community locations that they were originally located in.
Just as I have my memories of eating at Little King as a kid, Bob mentioned that one time – due to a shortage of sweet red peppers – customers left without their sandwich. They are that popular on sandwiches. It goes to show how one ingredient can change the whole taste of the item.
Bob told another story of a someone who wanted to have Little King sandwiches sent to her in California in time to watch the Husker game being played that Saturday. They delivered. It’s not necessarily a common request, as there are additional shipping costs than just that sandwich alone.
Little King may be changing its look, but its mission has not. Bob said the things that continue to separate them is the quality of food and customer service. They realize that it’s the experience that brings the customer back. They still use real meats and cheeses. The slicing is done right there when you order.
Bob reminded me that they are more than just sandwiches and chips. They have deli salads, cookies and rice krispie treats. I can vouch for the rice krispie treats being made fresh in the store as they were mixing a batch up when I arrived.
You can tell that Bob is also reenergized by the changes and is ready to take Little King into the future.