Beef 'O' Brady's explores non-traditional spaces

Sports chain eyes universities and airports

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, a 238-unit family sports bar concept, is working on plans to franchise in non-traditional locations such as colleges, airports and travel plazas.

This additional emphasis comes as the parent company, Family Sports Concepts Inc. of Tampa, Fla., has undergone new ownership and extensive changes in management this year.

Levine Leichtman Capital Partners of Los Angeles became the company's owner earlier this year after converting its at least $24.5 million investment in debt into equity. In March, the firm brought in Christopher Elliott, formerly of Cinnabon Inc., as chief executive to replace Chuck Winship, who had been with the company since 1998.

Elliott has recruited Joe Uhl, a former Cinnabon franchisee, as chief operating officer, and James Walker from Baja Fresh as chief development officer. Nick Vojnovic, who had been president of Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and had once held an equity position in the company, left in June to pursue a master’s degree at the University of South Florida.

“It’s very clear that the ownership group here is behind the brand, wants to grow the brand and is making the necessary moves from a human resource and human capital standpoint to get behind the brand and really push it,” Walker told Nation's Restaurant News.

Part of that strategy is to consider alternative sites for Beef ‘O’ Brady’s units as well as the traditional versions. The chain already has a version of a campus location at the University of South Florida.

“Taking a brand that is known for value, for fun, for core American staples like Buffalo wings and burgers and wrapping that in a fun, sports-type venue, to me, is frankly a dead match for airports, colleges and universities,” Walker said.

However, he noted that chain would continue to develop its traditional restaurant model.

“We still see the vast majority of growth at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s being in the traditional format,” Walker said. “The street-side, owner-operator format is still our main focus here.”

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s development team is establishing a new set of criteria for the traditional prototype that allows for some flexibility, ranging in size from 3,400 up to 3,800 square feet. Units typically need about 125 seats in order to have a full liquor license. Per person check average is $11.63.

“We don’t pigeonhole our success into one narrow, vanilla-box prototype,” Walker said. “We’re able to make a successful Beef ‘O’ Brady’s in a number of different prototypes. We want to continue that to take advantage of great real estate and prime locations.”

Part of that will be in smaller, non-traditional spaces, Walker said, adding that Beef ‘O’ Brady’s is drafting plans for as little 700 square feet with a more limited menu and more dayparts.

“Very few of our restaurants do breakfast today,” Walker said, “but in the [non-traditional] venues we are talking about, more will do breakfast.”

Chief executive Elliott said he sees “significant potential for Beef’s in college towns and other areas where our culture, food and environment is an ideal match.”

Walker said he was already considering at least one request for proposal for a non-traditional unit.

“This is just a part of the overall strategy," he said. "This is an accretive path that moves in parallel to traditional development.”

Franchise fees for traditional Beef ‘O’ Brady’s units are $35,000, payable in two equal payments with that latter at lease signing. Royalties are 4 percent of gross sales and marketing-fund contributions being 1.5 percent of gross sales.

Cost of investment in stores begins at $165,000, Walker said, and ranges to the low $400,000s.

Walker added that Beef ‘O’ Brady’s appears well situated to meet the needs of a more cost-conscious consumer.

“We were a value player prior to the macro-economic decline,” he said. “So where a lot of brands have been very reactionary to the economy, we started as a value player, and that’s where we sit today.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]