Famous Dave’s of America will open its first international location in Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba, next June, the company said.
The casual-dining barbecue chain has signed a deal with Canadian franchisee Famous Ribs of Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Tribal Councils Investment Group of Manitoba Ltd., or TCIG. TCIG is a private-investment holding of First Nations, or Canada’s native tribes.
Famous Dave’s chief executive Christopher O’Donnell said the company chose TCIG because of its growth and operations infrastructure resulting from a diversified business.
“The strength of their internal business operations gives us a lot of excitement for Canada,” O’Donnell said. “Canada gives us the opportunity to manage the process and learn from it. It’s close enough to really understand the challenges and opportunities.”
Famous Dave’s has also received serious franchise inquiries from Australia, Brazil, France, Spain and Russia. While the company currently does not have plans to expand to those countries, it would look to those markets once it learns from its Canadian experience, O’Donnell said.
“This is a good opportunity to sharpen our skills, learn the purchasing element and see our cultural fit,” he said. “The world has changed dramatically in the last three years. There was a process once where you have to saturate the United States before you go international. But now restaurant brands can take their blinders off and ask where else the opportunities are.”
Famous Dave’s still has room for as many as 400 restaurants in the United States, O’Donnell said. Expanding to 37 states, where regional preferences for barbecue are intense and styles vary significantly from the South to the Midwest to Texas, made O’Donnell confident that Famous Dave’s could expand to foreign markets with its menu.
“Many organizations have tried to embrace barbecue as a concept and grow it, but for us it’s a culture,” he said. “Our flavor profile is very bold. We embrace smoke flavors and bold seasonings that [our founder] Dave Anderson has perfected. That’s why Australia, Spain and Brazil interest me.”
The brand is 75-percent franchised in the United States, and O’Donnell said the chain would look to keep the same percentage in Canada and other international markets.
TCIG also shares a cultural synergy with Famous Dave’s, as its First Nations heritage aligns with that of founder and chairman Dave Anderson, who is Native American.
In addition to now franchising Famous Dave’s, TCIG owns and operates the master franchise of Wok Box, a quick-service Asian concept. TCIG also owns Arctic Beverages Limited, the only Pepsi bottler in the world operated by a native tribe, and which services the largest territory in Canada with Pepsi and Frito-Lay products.
Minneapolis-based Famous Dave’s was founded in 1994 and operates or franchises 184 barbecue restaurants in 37 states.