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During the quarter, Famous Dave’s saw further benefits from pulling back on discount-heavy direct mail in favor of email marketing to members of its P.I.G. Club, which is nearing 2 million members.

Gilbert admitted that more direct mail might have stemmed some lost sales and traffic on the dine-in business, but going forward, Famous Dave’s will allocate that marketing spending toward email marketing, which has cut marketing costs significantly and given the brand more flexibility to discount selectively and build the to-go business.

“One of the wonderful things about email is we can be very specific,” he said. “We’ll send a to-go-only offer on a Sunday morning for an NFL game, and there’s a discount with that, but we’re offering it on a timely basis and have the message tied specifically to one occasion. We did some government shutdown emails in the D.C. market that were very effective.”

Ongoing tests this year for things like an off-site call center for taking catering orders or a mobile-ordering app have been initiatives aimed at reducing general and administrative expenses while still getting sales leverage, particularly through off-premise food sales, Gilbert said. The initiatives all can be scaled to franchisees.

Menu initiatives planned for the fourth quarter include a systemwide introduction of a holiday smoked ham and smoked turkey program that tested very well last year. Two new products slated for early 2014 include a cheesy version of Famous Dave’s popular Burnt Ends, as well as a new steak menu item.

Famous Dave’s operates 53 company-owned locations and franchises another 138 restaurants in 34 states, Puerto Rico and Canada.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN