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Joanna Fantozzi speaks with Famous Dave's SVP, Al Hank, on the brand's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior Vice President of Famous Dave’s, Al Hank, on how the brand’s new smaller footprint gave it a leg-up during the coronavirus pandemic

Famous Dave’s had recently launched a smaller footprint and fast-casual concept, along with new ghost restaurant, which has helped them pivot to a tech-focused future after COVID-19

Before COVID-19 shook the American economy and restaurant industry to their core, Famous Dave’s had already been investing in an off-premise-focused future. Following a challenging few years — including major store closures and selling all of their company stores in 2017 — the Minnetonka, Minn.-based casual-dining barbecue chain plotted a turnaround strategy, complete with investment in technology, a new ghost kitchen intuitive, and a fast-casual concept that would give the brand a smaller footprint to work with.

Al Hank, senior vice president of Famous Dave’s, believes that these investments, most of which were launched in 2019, gave their company a much-needed boost to ride the wave of uncertainty during the pandemic.

“We’ve been tech focused for the past two years, which stems from kiosks to mobile, off-premise and tech solutions,” Hank said in a Zoom interview with Nation’s Restaurant News. “We were focused on not only doing that for our new counter service restaurants, but also implementing those into our full-service restaurants. So that gave us a leg-up, because when COVID starts, things are changing every hour. All of these things we were working on become turnkey solutions. Only instead of having them in five restaurants it was, ‘okay we need these in 130 locations…tomorrow.”

Not that it was easy, with 85% of their staff furloughed as of March 17. But as Famous Dave’s is implementing these solutions, and adding drive-thrus and curbside pickup locations where they had previously not been before, they are slowly able to hire back more employees.

Check out our Zoom interview with Al Hank to learn more. 

This is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi 

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