What is in this article?:
- Famous Dave's: New leadership wonâ€™t change 2014 strategy
- Making adjustments
Menu and marketing moves will remain intact as the brand transitions to its new interim CEO, Ed Rensi.
Discussing fourth-quarter earnings three days after chief executive John Gilbert III unexpectedly resigned, Famous Dave’s executives told investors and securities analysts that strategies implemented during the “transition year” of 2013 would remain under new leadership.
Dean Riesen, nonexecutive chairman of Famous Dave’s of America Inc., said during the Minneapolis-based company’s earnings call that Gilbert’s resignation was “a complete surprise to me and to the board,” but he added that the board was confident interim chief executive Ed Rensi would sustain recent momentum in profitability.
Ed Rensi, the former president and chief executive of McDonald’s USA, joined Famous Dave’s board of directors just one month ago. However, Riesen said Rensi already “has made a significant impact to the future of our brand as a director.”
“I had recruited Ed to our board because of his long career in the restaurant industry and his significant operational experience,” Riesen said. “As CEO, we expect great things out of him, and in a very short period I believe he is already on his way. For those of you that don’t know or have not met Ed, he is one of the highest-energy people I have ever met. The man barely sleeps.”
During Gilbert’s tenure as Famous Dave’s chief executive, which lasted less than 18 months, the company made significant changes to its menu and marketing strategies and restructured at the corporate level to reduce general and administrative expenses.
“John started a lot of initiatives that are starting to bear fruit, and I believe Ed will build on all of those,” Riesen said.
Among those changes, Famous Dave’s realigned its marketing department last year, eliminating its vice president of marketing position and splitting its responsibilities among four executives in charge of driving sales from four separate lines of business: dine-in, carryout, catering and retail.
The company also outsourced the analysis of its menu pricing to Revenue Management Solutions, which helped rationalize some menu items and adjust prices on remaining dishes. The resulting weighted average price increase on Famous Dave’s menu in 2013 was approximately 2.5 percent, chief financial officer Diana Purcel said.
“We changed our promotion strategy from one of traditional casual-dining LTOs to one of new-product innovation after significant testing,” Riesen added. “This led to our introduction successfully of Burnt Ends and several line extensions of Burnt Ends.”
Famous Dave’s will also continue to evolve its BBQ Shack, the fast-casual variant that had three total smaller-box locations open in Minnesota, Oregon and Illinois at the end of 2012. “We believe that [Rensi] will be critical in bringing that fully to market and supercharging the growth of it,” Riesen said.
Riesen added that the search for the next permanent chief executive of Famous Dave’s was underway, “but we are under no pressure since we have such a talented leader with Ed [Rensi].”