What is in this article?:
- Famous Dave's aims to develop 'better barbecue' niche
- A symbiotic relationship
Famous Dave's executives say the brand's fast-casual variant makes the brand’s food more relevant on an everyday basis.
Famous Dave’s growth in the coming years will feature more openings of its slimmed-down fast-casual variant, Famous Dave’s BBQ Shack, but the 189-unit chain is hardly thinking small.
Officials at the Minneapolis-based company said the Shack would become a significant growth vehicle for Famous Dave’s in the near future as the company also looks to increase sales of carryout and catering at the fast-casual variant and the legacy casual-dining restaurants.
Introducing a fast-casual variant for Famous Dave’s makes the brand’s food more relevant on an everyday basis and less dependent on special-occasion appeal, said Brett Larrabee, director of franchise sales and development. He noted that fast casual “is the wheelhouse of people’s lives,” and pointed out that a “better barbecue” niche has not been claimed yet.
Chief executive John Gilbert added that the fast-casual BBQ Shack will help the brand better reach its target customer, the female head of household who makes the majority of meal purchasing decisions.
“Women don’t want to survive at mealtime, they want to win,” he said. “The higher-order need here is to make Mom a winner. I don’t think we’re in their space all the time yet, but we can be with this BBQ Shack — if it’s a comparison [between competitors and us] on speed, flexibility and portability, and quality, we’ll win on those dynamics.”
Prime conditions for growth
The first BBQ Shack opened last year in Eden Prairie, Minn.; a second unit debuted this fall in Beaverton, Ore.; and a third location opened last month in Chicago suburb Evergreen Park, Ill.
Larrabee said that market trends make fast-casual concepts ideal growth vehicles for franchisees right now. “A lot of restaurants have been shaken out of fast casual and fast food, so there are a lot of empty boxes out there that fit the Shack’s size, as well as old Blockbuster Video buildings and other end-cap orientations,” he said.
Economic shifts in commercial real estate have also opened up opportunities on which Famous Dave’s could not capitalize before with just its typical 6,000-plus-square-foot stores. The Illinois location of the Shack was slightly larger than 4,000 square feet.
“These Shack footprints are not only less expensive to build, but they’re also more neighborhood-focused,” Larrabee said. “We don’t need to be in the power center next to the Best Buy to make the ROI work.”
He added that, because fast-casual barbecue is a largely undefined segment, the BBQ Shack fits in the portfolios of current Famous Dave’s franchisees who want to grow in smaller markets or of operators of other brands looking to round out their holdings without having to worry about cannibalizing their burger andconcepts.
Most malls and landlords do not have noncompete clauses for barbecue concepts, either. “That’s how this Shack has the wheels it has,” Larrabee said. “If it were just another burger concept, there’d be all sorts of problems, because there would be exclusive stipulations in the mall, or the franchisee would already have a burger chain, or the market is already saturated.”