With new CEO and Dave himself, Famous Dave’s shifts from expansion to revolution

Dave Anderson, owner of Famous Dave’s grill restaurants, found himself in a place final month that he hadn’t been in scarcely 16 years — a company’s boardroom in Minnetonka.

“They’re finally listening to me again,” he says.

Anderson left a association in 2002 when President George W. Bush allocated him to lead a Department of a Interior’s Indian Affairs office. His army in supervision didn’t final prolonged and Anderson went into other business ventures afterward, including another grill concept, Old Southern BBQ, that started in Wisconsin and came to Minneapolis final year.

Famous Dave’s thrived for several years after his exit, flourishing to about 200 locations especially by franchising. And then, it went into a pits.

Growth plateaued as fast-casual dining bondage broadly came underneath vigour from new competition, trimming from grocery stores to online smoothness services. After a depart in 2012 of a executive who led a association by a recession, Famous Dave’s gifted a revolving doorway during a tip — 5 arch executives in 5 years, nothing staying longer than 18 months.

The latest, Jeff Crivello, took assign in Nov and brought Anderson, who had been given a consulting agreement dual years earlier, behind into a office.

“The past CEOs knew they had to modernise Famous Dave’s, though instead of articulate to me they went and hired these imagination selling companies, literally spent fortunes, and hired selling people who had to investigate barbecue,” Anderson said. “I’m saying, ‘Hey, I’m in a Barbecue Hall of Fame. Don’t we consider we should speak to me?’ Jeff is a initial one who did.”

“Dave is a shining guy. He’s a theorist with food,” Crivello said. “We’re mostly on a phone during midnight deliberating this and that.”

With Anderson’s recommendation and recipes, Crivello is starting a extended makeover to a sequence that had formerly seen tweaks. The span is experimenting with a Twin Cities locations, owned by a association rather than franchisees, in hopes of anticipating a menu and demeanour that will lead business to revisit some-more frequently.

Last month, they non-stop a remodeled grill in Coon Rapids, ditching a cabin-like male cavern vibe for a complicated dining room that’s splendid and welcoming.

“It typically takes a year to get a product ideas, supply sequence and training in place. We did it in dual months,” Crivello said. “We went from dim and dull with joyless song to a 180 grade shift.”

Crivello, 39, asked Anderson, 64, to come adult with new recipes with wider interest over barbecue. Anderson combined honeyed potatoes, mac n cheese, tawny coleslaw and corn muffin tops. “These are all new recipes, well, my family’s recipes from over a years,” he said.

In a month given a Coon Rapids plcae reopened with a new look, sales are adult 20 percent. The association is already exploring how to inspire franchisees to adopt a new demeanour by providing materials and financing options.

Famous Dave’s is starting a modernise during a time when a $2.53 billion grill courtesy is creation a comeback, flourishing during a faster gait than many segments of a U.S. grill industry. Major fast-food bondage like Arby’s, KFC and McDonald’s have all done new grill additions to their menus.

“It’s younger consumers, millennials and Gen Z, relocating toward spicier flavors with some-more brave palates,” pronounced Darren Tristano, arch executive of CHD-Expert, a marketplace investigate organisation in Chicago. “They’re looking for hipper, cooler concepts.”

Famous Dave’s saw increases in feet trade and sales during a corporate-owned stores during a initial 3 months of a year. In a news expelled final week, a sequence showed a distinction of scarcely $1 million, reversing march from a fibre of quarterly losses. The association continues to tighten unprofitable locations and is down to 150 compared to 194 in 2013. Its batch price, hovering around $8 per share, has scarcely doubled given Crivello’s arrival.

Famous Dave’s has also hired remarkable Kansas City pitmaster Travis Clark to safeguard coherence with brisket and ribs. He’s operative with a sequence to open new concepts underneath a Famous Dave’s umbrella.

To enhance a appeal, a association is profitable new courtesy to womanlike business with some-more accumulation and smaller portions. Crivello pronounced he hopes a few smaller snack portions will lead business to try new side dishes, such as honeyed potato soufflé and Brussels sprouts.

Of a 23 new equipment combined in Coon Rapids, customarily about 10 are approaching to make a final cut for rollout to other locations.

Jim Kielb of Otsego, picking adult a takeout burger, fries and coleslaw for lunch final week in Coon Rapids, pronounced he’s happy about a menu changes. “My partner doesn’t like barbecue,” he said. “She’d rather have salad or something lighter. Now we can move her here and we’re both happy.”

Longtime business Mary and Dennis Conley of Champlin like a new ambience. “We’ve been entrance here given a ’90s, though we like a new TVs, a colors, and a nation music,” Dennis said. “I beheld a decrease when Dave left and they got absolved of a cornbread. Now it seems some-more like it was when they initial non-stop up.”

After a Coon Rapids exam is finished in a integrate of months, a Maple Grove plcae will be a subsequent grill to get a refresh.

Store remodels might be a large earthy change, though there are other poignant changes on a company’s agenda. With scarcely one-third of sales now entrance from smoothness and takeout orders, executives will be adding tiny commissary locations for smoothness and catering only. The initial one will open after this year in California.

Barbecue’s advantage is that it travels well, creation it a long-lived favorite for outside celebrations, let alone smoothness and takeout. “We wish to enlarge a demographic to a younger audience,” Anderson said. “Millennials do a lot of takeout and delivery.”

About half of Famous Dave’s existent restaurants have entrance to a smoothness service, though some franchisees are facing it. Delivery companies assign a grill 20 to 30 percent, that many trust is too steep. “They’d rather have a patron in a store where they can offer a drink, appetiser or dessert,” Crivello said. “We’ve got a data. we consider buy-in will eventually come.”

Anderson pronounced his initial idea that things were changing during Famous Dave’s was when he saw Crivello collect adult a mop during a Coon Rapids remodeling. “You don’t customarily see CEOs doing that,” Anderson said.


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