From Indian ashram, HRC vet Tigrett seeks Bozo’s sale

From Indian ashram, HRC vet Tigrett seeks Bozo’s sale

SAI BABA ASHRAM INDIA. Hard Rock Cafe [3] and House of Blues [4] chains, achieved an “eatertainment” trifecta with the creation of a third high-profile brand, would you want to run it? —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Because he did, and you can. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Nearly a decade after exiting the restaurant world, Tigrett has developed a new venture called Bozo’s Hot Pit Bar-B-Q [5]. Reached by phone at the vast Indian ashram where the foodservice pioneer moved after developing the chain model, Tigrett described Bozo’s as yet another high-volume, Americana-inspired restaurant-entertainment-merchandise concept, one that potentially could become a national barbecue brand. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Only, he doesn’t want to launch it. Tigrett’s version of Bozo’s—whose inspiration was an 84-year-old barbecue landmark about 50 miles north of Memphis, Tenn.—is for sale. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

After spending roughly $750,000 to license the Bozo’s name, design a prototype restaurant, identify potential merchandise, make financial projections and establish copyrights, trademarks and logos under the company name Roadside Attractions Ltd., Tigrett said his life took a more spiritual turn. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

He moved to the ashram of his guru, Sathya Sai Baba, and is now working on the development of a spiritual retreat there. Meanwhile, Tigrett hired Fame Farm, a licensing agency based in Henderson, Nev., to find a buyer for the Bozo’s brand. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Last month, Fame Farm began quietly marketing Tigrett’s version of Bozo’s as a “just-add-water” operation ripe for launch in a major market like Las Vegas or Los Angeles. A $10 million initial investment would get the potential chain started, said Michael Feder, Fame Farm’s chief executive. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Meanwhile, the owner of the original Bozo’s Hot Pit Bar-B-Q in Mason, Tenn., said the clock is ticking on Tigrett’s agreed-upon use of the restaurant’s name. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Hayne Ozier, who bought the circa-1923 barbecue joint from the grandson of founder Thomas Jefferson “Bozo” Williams in 1999, said he has extended the agreement with Tigrett several times. Ozier, who would receive a fixed fee for every new Bozo’s that finally opens under his pact with Tigrett, said the entrepreneur has paid him less than $100,000 so far. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Ozier is a fan of Tigrett’s newand-improved Bozo’s concept. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

“It’s magnificent,” Ozier said. “He’s a genius.” —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Still, Ozier said he wasn’t sure he’d hear from Tigrett again after learning of his move to India. Ozier, who is not interested in franchising, said he is open to the idea of selling the restaurant, along with the name, though “that would cost much more than what [Tigrett] has paid so far.” —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Tigrett’s attraction to the Tennessee operation wasn’t the first time outsiders had shown interest in Bozo’s name. The founding family spent nearly 10 years battling a trademark challenge by performer Larry Harmon, better known in his TV and personal-appearance guise as Bozo the Clown, in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The restaurant’s right to the trademark was upheld. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Tigrett felt the Bozo’s name and barbecue pedigree were ideal for his concept. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

In the phone interview from the ashram, Tigrett said he is looking for a “pro” to take on the brand. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

“This is not something you take on as a learning curve,” he said while still expressing confidence that the time is right for a potentially national barbecue chain. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

“Brand building is my thing,” said Tigrett, who has offered to stay on as a consultant to a buyer. “I’ve made every mistake there is a thousand times. I know how to do this.” —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Tigrett opened the first Hard Rock Cafe in London in 1971 with partner Peter Morton, but the two parted ways in 1981, with Tigrett taking ownership of the London unit and eventually dividing worldwide rights to the HRC concept with Morton. The two grew their respective factions separately, with Morton launching the first U.S. Hard Rock in 1982 in Los Angeles. Tigrett took his Hard Rock group public in England in 1983, selling 25 percent of it for $1 million. He launched the New York Hard Rock a year later. In 1987 his company sold notes representing 23 percent of its equity for $54 million. In 1988, with a total of seven Tigrett-run Hard Rocks operating internationally, he sold the 54 percent he controlled for $108 million, personally pocketing some $30 million. The buyer, London-based Rank Group PLC, later consolidated the chain by buying Morton’s [6] group, and last year Rank sold the Hard Rock system to the Seminole Tribe of Florida for $965 million, including ownership or licensing rights for 124 cafes, four Hard Rock Hotels and two Hard Rock Casino Hotels. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Tigrett founded the House of Blues chain in Cambridge, Mass., in 1992, though he left the company in 1998 after selling his interests to West Hollywood, Calif.-based HOB Entertainment Inc. Last year, concert promoter Live Nation Inc. paid $350 million to acquire HOB Entertainment, which now has 11 House of Blues restaurant-nightclubs and numerous other concert venues. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Tigrett said the Bozo’s project began about five years ago. After moving to Tennessee to care for his seriously ill mother, Tigrett refamiliarized himself with the region’s many noted barbecue restaurants, including the original Bozo’s. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

At the time, Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants was growing its Smokey Bones [7] barbecue brand, and Minneapolis-based Famous Dave’s was spreading outside its core market in the Midwest. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Tigrett said he believed the time was right for a national barbecue brand to emerge and he began “churning out ideas.” —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

His current vision for a new-and-improved Bozo’s, however, looks nothing like the humble original. The new Bozo’s is designed to be colorfully kitschy, with memorabilia that evokes the freak show attractions of a county fair midway, such as the “two-headed snake” and the “giant ball of twine.” —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

The Tigrett-devised Bozo’s would include late-night dining, live music and branded merchandise. Aspects that he contends have huge potential are overnight shipping of barbecue as well as catering and takeout. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

After his mother died, however, Tigrett lost interest in taking Bozo’s to the next phase. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

“My life changed,” he said. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Industry veterans wonder what sort of buyer would be interested in taking on such risk, despite Tigrett’s track record with lucrative, high-volume chain concepts. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Tigrett “may have a thorough business plan and his name lends credibility,” said foodservice consultant Dennis Lombardi of WD Partners in Columbus, Ohio. However, “Until you build a couple of stores, you’re really only making projections,” he added, observing that Bozo’s would need to generate high volumes to justify the expected start-up investment. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

David Epstein, a principal at Chicago-based investment bank J.H. Chapman Group LLC, agreed. “This is not something I’d recommend for my clients,” he said. “This is an equity play. Someone’s going to have to put in all the dollars in terms of equity, total risk capital.” —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Regional barbecue chains, such as the 10-unit Lucille’s Smoke-house Bar-B-Que, based in Signal Hill, Calif., are finding success with their concepts. Lucille’s 10,000-square-foot units average about $8.5 million in annual sales. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Darden [8], however, earlier this year put its remaining 73 Smokey Bones restaurants up for sale after closing 54 branches and conceding that varying regional taste preferences posed challenges for operating a large-scale barbecue chain. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

At press time, results of Darden’s auction of Smokey Bones were expected to be disclosed this month. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned

Famous Dave’s has come closest to creating a national barbecue brand. With a presence in 36 states, the company’s typical 6,000-square-foot restaurants averaged $47,894 in weekly sales last year. —If Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the world-renowned