President Kevin Brock has serious growth plans in the works for Boneheads Grilled Fish and Piri Piri.
Boneheads, a quick-service grilled fish and chicken chain based in Atlanta, currently owns and operates only five locations in four states. The average check at the chain is about $9, and signature items include a taco combo and salads with fish. “Our fish taco is our number one lunch seller, no doubt,” Brock said.
Brock said that through franchising, he hopes to grow the chain by 30 restaurants by the end of 2013 and by another 30 units by Jan. 1, 2015. The company plans to expand the chain throughout the entire U.S., he noted, and has already begun planning locations in Atlanta; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Massapequa, N.Y.; Austin, Texas; and Nashville, Tenn., where he has a five-store deal in the works.
But even during this busy time for the company Brock manages to keep a sense of humor. “We want to have fun along the way,” he said, laughing. “Our name’s Boneheads. If you can’t have fun with that then what are you gonna do?”
Brock recently spoke with Nation's Restaurant News about the restaurant concept, his plans for expansion and how being a bonehead can sometimes be a good thing.
Tell me a bit about the Boneheads chain.
Boneheads is a quick-casual, grilled fish and piri piri chicken chain. When you come in here you kind of feel at home. It’s so difficult to nail down [who our core audience is] because I’m in a restaurant right now and I see all ages, ethnicities, everything. We’re an on-the-go healthy concept restaurant.
Tell me a bit about Boneheads’ history. When did the company launch?
Boneheads has been around since 2006. It grew kind of slowly, and then it went dormant with its previous owners. Myself and our other partners were looking to fill a gap in the QSR segment. We thought, 'We have to come up with something that isn’t like anything else. There's burgers everywhere, there’s pizza everywhere.' And we found Boneheads. I knew the food. We acquired it about two years ago and took a good look at it from the inside out, and now it’s ready to launch further. We’re ready to go nationwide.
Who do you see as your competitors?
I guess anybody that serves food is competition. We’re so different, so I guess it’s anybody that serves fish or serves chicken. We really don’t have anybody who’s a direct competitor of us.
The only competitor I could see is a full-service restaurant, and the food is just as good at our quick-service location. That’s different.
How will you grow the business nationwide?
We’re looking to franchise it, obviously. We have some areas that we want to develop corporately, too. We think with the concept and the way people are becoming healthier, they’re watching what they’re eating. This is something people are going to be seeking out.
I had my [health realization] moment about 3 years ago. I was 35, and I realized that it really matters what I put in my stomach…When I was 18, [quick service] was a cheeseburger drive through.
Now, all these studies that come out every week that it’s so important to be healthy. Our boneheaded thing is that we were accidentally healthy.
Why do you say your company was 'accidentally healthy?'
You might not come [to Boneheads] because it’s healthy — it’s just good food. But many of our menu items are under 400 calories. You think, 'How is that possible? You’re telling me I can go there and not feel guilty?'
'Accidentally healthy' means that we had already developed the brand, and then we looked at the food and saw that it was healthy, and that it had benefits. Our name says it all: We’re boneheads.
You’ve grown franchises before. Tell me a bit about your background.
I was with Moe’s Southwest Grill. I got there in early 2003 and I was one of the original 10 guys on the brand. We had Moe’s, we had Doc Greens Gourmet Salads & Grill, and most recently, I launched Monkey Joes, a children’s entertainment brand. I grew Monkey Joe’s from two to 80 locations. That took about 3.5 years.
When it comes to growing a business model and growing a company, I’ve done it.
What have sales at Boneheads been like lately?
It’s actually getting better. Everyone’s taken a hit in this economy. I think the fact that we started in 2006 and have sustained through the downturn this is a true testament to the brand and to the food. People are choosing where to go, and they’re choosing to go to healthier opportunities. We’re seeing our trends go back up.