Portland News

How Noodles & Company Transformed from an Underperforming Store to a Nationwide Chain

A brief look into the growth of one of America's largest noodle chains
A brief look into the growth of one of America's largest noodle chains

Noodles & Company – Noodles is a popular delicacy in the east that is often categorized as pasta in the west. It has grown popular over the past couple of decades and is often served in Asian-themed restaurants.

In Colorado, Aaron Kennedy decided to turn it into a staple dish for the fast-casual restaurant, Noodles & Company.


Aaron Kennedy conceived the idea to create Noodles & Company after visiting Mamie’s Asian Noodle Shop in Greenwich Village, New York. 

The dish left him wondering why there weren’t enough restaurants in the country, prompting him to develop recipes with future COO Joe Serafin and head chef Ross Kamens.

The former Pepsi marketing executive raised $72,000 in personal funds and $200,000 in investments from about 24 friends and family.

Noodles & Company would open in October 1995 in Denver, Colorado.

Early Endeavors

Noodles & Company lost $42,000 in its first three months, nearly going out of business in 1996 following a negative review from the Wisconsin State Journal.

It wasn’t the only negative review, as other papers published similar sentiments.

Kennedy retaliated by starting a “Redefine Noodles & Company” campaign.

The management team traveled to Chicago to observe how other noodle restaurants operated, and the next day Kennedy listed 15 areas for improvement.

The restaurant revamped a significant portion of its branding, including the menu, the prices, and decoration, to name a few.

Two new managers and an executive chef who re-worked the menu were brought in.

Inc. Magazine wrote how the restaurant improved its foot dramatically within sixty days.


Between 1996 and 2000, Noodles & Company improved its revenue from $330,000 to $13 million.

Food critics changed their opinion, citing the restaurant as the best fast-food restaurant in the city.

In 2002, the restaurant expanded to 37 locations, increasing by 28 in 2003 and opening 142 by 2007.

Rocky Mountain News wrote that Noodles & Company was growing “so fast that it has had to move every two years.”

Aaron Kennedy stepped down as CEO in 2006, with Kevin Reddy taking his place. 

Despite the change in leadership, Noodles & Company continued its growth. Even with the financial crisis between 2007 and 2008, the company reached 339 locations by 2013.

Recent Operations

In January 2013, the company scouted for underwriters for an IPO.

Two months later, a public offering was confirmed with a filing with the US SEC for $75 million in stock. Within a day of Noodles & Company’s IPO, its stock price doubled.

2015 saw the company close a total of sixteen locations, including all the branches in Central Texas and a few others in Lubbock and the Washington, D.C. area.

Noodles & Company was put under the spotlight in 2016 when two employees refused to serve a uniformed police officer who reported the incident and gained regional news coverage.

The company issued an apology and terminated both employees.

Noodles & Company announced plans to close 55 underperforming restaurants while planning to open 14 to 17 new locations.

The company also planned a pilot test with a new name, new menu items, customizations, rapid pick-up service, and a rewards program. 

The changes were implemented for a nationwide rollout save for the proposed name change to Noodles World Kitchen.

Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.