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Famous Dave's, Charley's launch fast-casual concepts

Famous Dave’s of America Inc. and Charley’s Grilled Subs have debuted new store prototypes designed to compete within the rapidly expanding fast-casual sector.

Minneapolis-based Famous Dave’s opened one of its “Famous Dave’s BBQ Shack” prototypes Monday in Eden Prairie, Minn. Unlike other BBQ Shack units, the location includes counter service and a pick-up window.

EARLIER: Famous Dave’s to test fast-casual prototype

Famous Dave’s president and chief executive Christopher O’Donnell said the company-owned unit allows for faster service while serving the same St. Louis-style ribs and barbecued meats smoked on-site as the fare available at the chain’s 184 casual dining locations in 37 states.

He added that the BBQ Shack also would be a lab where the brand would try out new menu items.

O’Donnell said the fast-casual concept will feature the same menu items as Famous Dave’s, “but in a smaller footprint and with quicker counter service for both dine-in and to-go orders”

In addition, he continued, “Our founder, ‘Famous Dave’ Anderson, will use this location to try new menu ideas and to experiment with new seasonings, sauces and flavors.”

The BBQ Shack prototype also will accommodate phone-ahead orders with a pick-up window, which is not traditionally part of a fast-casual restaurant, but would benefit Famous Dave’s carryout and catering business, O’Donnell said.

“We understand that sometimes guests are in a hurry, need to pick up a quick dish for a party, or just want to get home quickly with a delicious meal they can share with their family in the comfort of their own home,” he said. “The pick-up window is our version of curb-side service.”

Throughout December, Famous Dave’s is celebrating the debut of the BBQ Shack by accepting entries for a drawing for free monthly, catered All-American BBQ Feasts for a year to one winner, who will be selected on Jan. 6, 2012.

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Columbus, Ohio-based Charley’s also makes its initial foray into fast casual waters this week, opening the first Charley’s Philly Subs unit in its headquarters city Wednesday. Since opening its first restaurant 25 years ago near the Ohio State University campus, Charley’s has grown mostly through on-site locations at malls, airports and military bases. But chain founder and chief executive Charley Shin said the new freestanding fast-casual concept gives Charley’s several ways to grow.

“This is the next step in taking the Charley’s brand around the globe,” Shin said. “Charley’s Philly Steaks is a two-fold achievement: better options for our loyal customers and more opportunities for interested franchise buys.”

The Charley’s Philly Steaks prototype also has a drive-thru, and the brand has included several more upscale service features inside. The paper plates of Charley’s traditional quick-service locations will be replaced with real silverware and ceramic plates, and the to-go packaging is made from 60-percent post-consumer recycled materials. Modern décor, lighting and seating are also featured.

Charley’s has paired several new menu features with the debut of Charley’s Philly Subs, including an option for three different sizes of sandwich rather than a “one size fits all” approach at its quick-service locations.

Philly Bowls, which ditch the signature sandwich’s bread and combine the ingredients and toppings with rice, will be available for the first time. Also, all of the brand’s signature lemonades will be prepared fresh with real fruit, in strawberry, blueberry and peach flavors.

Charley’s Philly Subs will offer eight types of French fries, including Ultimate Fries with Cheddar cheese, bacon and ranch dressing, or Philly Funnel Fries with cream-cheese icing and powdered sugar. Desserts include new Signature Frozen Treats, all made with low-fat frozen yogurt.

Charley’s said it would open between five and 10 more Philly Subs locations in 2012. The chain’s system of more than 430 units in 44 states and 16 countries is 90-percent franchised.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN

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