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New name, locale, but same fare
Folks reborn as Rusty Rooster
Rooster Folks 2 es
Eli Higbie eats wings Tuesday afternoon at the Rusty Rooster Cafe. The eatery on Buford Highway, near Sanders Road, is the new fast-food version of Folks. - photo by Emily Saunders
Looking for Folks restaurant? Head about 1.3 miles southeast and check out the Rusty Rooster Café instead.

For the past 15 years, the Folks in Lakeland Plaza has attracted a steady following.

But owner Richard J. Pratt has set his sights on something new — the Rusty Rooster Café.

“We’ve done well in that market for the 15 years, but we decided to make a change,” Pratt said.

“Instead of full table service, you walk up to a menu board, place your order, you get your own drinks and we bring the food to your table.”

Despite the change in name and style, Rusty Rooster still serves the Folks’ menu favorites that attracted business to begin with, Pratt said.

The Rusty Rooster Café opened a few weeks ago at 1175 Buford Road and already Folks customers have been helping business boom.

“It’s pretty much the same menu items, just at a lower cost for the guest, faster and more convenient,” he said. “It’s been great. We’ve had very good acceptance.”

As for the Lakeland location, the plan is to find another tenant to lease the building, said Mariah Klein, vice president of leasing with Ben Carter Properties.

“We would consider anything ... that would be consistent with the first-class shopping center,” she said. “When [Folks] left, they took out most of the equipment and the fixtures, so it could be a restaurant, or it could just as easily be retail use.”

Eric Wocksler, director of operations for the company, said the Rusty Rooster concept is the future of the Folks’ chain.

“This is what we want to evolve into,” he said. “This allows us to take our current food and make it into more of a quicker, casual setting, which is what we’ve seen that ... consumers are looking for. Being able to get a home-cooked meal, but getting it a little faster and maybe a little less expensive.”

Wocksler said prices are lower because there are fewer overhead costs associated with the new format. The chain currently has 10 Folks and two Rusty Rooster locations throughout the metro Atlanta area.

Eventually, all Folks locations could switch to the Rusty Rooster design.

In the meantime, Wocksler said the goal is to perfect operations and see an uptick in the economy before making a similar switch to other locations.

“But our intention is to grow and shortly down the road, franchise,” he said.