Famous Dave is coming back to Famous Dave’s.
Dave Anderson is returning to the Minneapolis barbecue chain he founded, the company said on Friday, as part of a management and organizational overhaul in recent months.
Anderson will have an expanded role than he had when he left in 2014. Adam Wright, the chain’s interim CEO, said in a statement that Anderson will help “craft more of the award-winning barbecue that made us famous” and will work on rebuilding the company’s culture and improve the guest experience. In short, it appears that Anderson’s job is to show the chain how to be the barbecue concept it was again.
“Our company was founded on Dave’s passion to serve the best barbecue, and we are working hard to get Famous Dave’s back on track,” Wright said. “Dave Anderson brings a wealth of current barbecue knowledge, experience and passion, and I know our guests are excited to see ‘Famous’ back, serving up his award-winning barbecue.”
Anderson’s return to the chain represents a symbolic moment for a chain struggling with sales weakness and coming off of two years of turmoil and turnover among management and board members.
“Dave has always believed that you can’t build a great company without great people, and he will be working hard to inspire and educate our team and local pitmasters,” Wright said. “We are very excited to have our founder back.”
Anderson was Famous Dave’s chairman until 2004 when he left to be assistant secretary of the interior under George W. Bush. He returned later as spokesman, but left in 2014. A release on Friday doesn’t mince words as to why.
“It was a difficult decision when I left the company, but at the time my vision did not align with the direction being taken by the previous management team,” Anderson said. “I am excited to be Famous Dave again and back at the company focused on re-energizing our guests’ experience by serving the highest quality authentic barbecue with world class hospitality.”
In early 2014, Famous Dave’s hired former McDonald’s executive Ed Rensi as CEO, at a time when activist investors were taking roles on the chain’s board and management and longtime board members were leaving.
The efforts didn’t invigorate Famous Dave’s sales. Same-store sales fell 9.2 percent at corporate locations in the company’s second quarter, and nearly 14 percent on a two-year basis.
Rensi stepped down as CEO. He then left the board along with the company’s chairman, David Mastrocola, and another director, Brett Heffes. Two representatives from the hedge fund Wexford Capital took their place, including Wexford’s cofounder Joseph Jacobs, named chairman, and Richard Shapiro, a partner at the firm.
Wright, himself an activist investor with Blue Clay Capital Management, was named interim CEO. Anand Gala, a Famous Dave’s franchisee, has since been named to the company’s board as well.
Entering the day, Famous Dave’s stock lost 56 percent of its value this year. The company’s stock fell more than 1 percent today.
Mark Smith, analyst with Feltl & Company, said that Anderson brings credibility to the brand. “I think the operators and the internal guys who’ve been there a while really like him,” Smith said. “He knows things about the operations and especially the food that you just can’t find.”
This won’t be the only barbecue chain Anderson will be involved in. Since he left the company, Anderson started a fast-casual barbecue concept, Jimmie’s Old Southern BBQ, which has a smaller menu. He will continue his involvement in that concept. In a statement, Anderson said that the market for barbecue is “growing explosively, and there is plenty of room for the many different types of barbecue in America.”