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Famous Dave’s unveils first fast-casual format

The company’s recovery plan bets big on off-premise

The yearlong turnaround effort at Famous Dave's of America’s has involved a series of experiments including launching a ghost restaurant and a massive overhaul of the chain’s menu.

The latest experiment for the Minnetonka, Minn.-based full-service brand is unveiling a fast-casual restaurant.

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A franchisee in Tucson, Ariz. opened a fast-casual Famous Dave’s this week, the first of its kind for the brand, CEO Jeff Crivello told Nation’s Restaurant News in a phone interview Thursday.

The 2,500-square foot restaurant is about 4,000 square feet smaller than a standard Famous Dave’s.  In Tucson, the franchise owner was seeing “empty seats” in his larger restaurant which he closed a few blocks down the street.

“Some of our boxes are too large,” Crivello said.

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As off-premise sales, especially delivery, continue to be key sales drivers for the chain, Crivello said this Arizona test could result in future restaurants going with the smaller counter-service format.

“The business is shifting to off premise,” Crivello said.

The smaller store, which seats up to 75 people, has a trimmed down menu and requires less staff. That relieves the growing pressure operators are facing with higher labor and real estate costs, Crivello said.

“We’re trying to keep up with the restaurant evolution,” he said.

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In the meantime, the CEO said the company will continue to look for more ways to boost off-premise sales. The company plans delivery from shared kitchen spaces in California, and ghost-style restaurants in Denver and Minneapolis. 

In its last quarterly earnings, Crivello said delivery now represents 50 percent of sales for barbecue chain, up from 31 percent in May. Famous Dave’s will report its first quarter 2019 earnings on May 13.

The company has 136 restaurants in the U.S, including Puerto Rico, as well as Canada and United Arab Emirates.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @FastFoodMaven

TAGS: Operations
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