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Jaggers.jpg Photo courtesy of Alicia Kelso
Texas Roadhouse's Jaggers concept made its debut in late 2014.

Texas Roadhouse picks up the pace for its Jaggers concept

Development of Texas Roadhouse’s quick-service concept Jaggers has picked up since it first debuted in late 2014.

Editor's note: Since this story was published, Jaggers' franchisee The Saxton Group reached out to let us know its first location opened in early November in Longview, Texas, putting the concept's total unit count to-date at nine. 

Jaggers is the baby of Texas Roadhouse’s restaurant brands – both by age and size. The quick-service concept was created in 2014, about a year after the company’s late founder Kent Taylor came up with the first Bubba’s 33, and about five years after he introduced casual dining brand Aspen Creek.

Aspen Creek’s debut was strong, but the second and third restaurants were cannibalizing existing Texas Roadhouse locations, so the company sold it to a franchisee. That left “the mother ship” – as Taylor called Texas Roadhouse in his book “Made from Scratch: The Legendary Success Story of Texas Roadhouse” – and Bubba’s 33 and Jaggers. Bubba’s has since grown to about 33 locations, while Texas Roadhouse has about 615 domestic locations.

Jaggers, however, has grown at what can only be considered a snail’s pace, with eight current locations in Louisville, Ky., Indianapolis, Ind., Southern Indiana, and Jacksonville, North Carolina. That pace, however, seems to be picking up a bit; there were just two open at the beginning of 2020 and there could be as many as 15 open by the end of next year.

In his book, Taylor described Jaggers as “a place that would have better burgers than Five Guys, and serve chicken tenders and sandwiches that could compete with Raising Cane’s and Chick-fil-A.”

He and his team spent six months working on a made-from-scratch menu that could translate to a quick-service format.

“The subtle differences in meat-to-fat ratios, hamburger grind sizes, marinades, and bun specifics were an ordeal in trial and error. The design of the building, kitchen, drive-through, along with spec’ing lighting, walls, flooring, ceiling, and seating took some time as well,” he wrote.

The first Jaggers opened in Noblesville, Indiana, on Dec. 9, 2014. Sales were “decent,” Taylor wrote: “The numbers were a far cry from those of Chick-fil-A or Raising Cane’s, but ahead of Five Guys. It would take a couple of years of fine-tuning and another restaurant opening to finally match the sales of the big dogs.”

The first time Jaggers was mentioned on an earnings call was in August 2015. At that time, just one was open, and the concept wouldn’t come up again until Q3 2017, when Taylor shared the company was “looking at doing another Jaggers in 2018.”  

In Q2, 2018, then-CFO Scott Colosi mentioned that the first two locations were doing well and have grown sales “quite a bit,” adding that “we’ll get to number three pretty soon.” By Q3 2019, the company was planning two Jaggers for 2020, but we all know what happened in 2020, and that guidance shifted to opening just one on the year.

That said, having a to-go-friendly concept during the pandemic provided a bit of a topline tailwind. In October of that year, Taylor noted that Jaggers had “seen a significant increase in sales and margin performance over the past six months,” and by February 2021, he was downright bullish on the concept.  

“I've had a lot of fun in the past six months working on new retail initiatives and fine-tuning Jaggers, which sets us up for future growth over the next decade. We've been very successful in the full-service world, so why not retail and fast food, too?” he said.

Taylor’s successor Jerry Morgan has since maintained much of that optimism, stating in 2021 that the company was excited about Jaggers and was building the team around the concept. In September 2021, Texas Roadhouse signed its first franchise development agreement for Jaggers with The Saxton Group, with a target of opening 10 units in east and central Texas and Tulsa, Okla. Those remain in the works.

In 2022, the company implemented a new Jaggers mobile app, including a loyalty program. By Q3 2022, five Jaggers locations were open and, by Q1, 2023, seven were open. There are now eight Jaggers restaurants open and that number could nearly double by the end of 2024.

“Looking ahead to 2024, we have a strong pipeline of new stores and are targeting approximately 30 company-owned Texas Roadhouse and Bubba’s 33 openings, as well as three Jaggers,” Morgan said during the company’s most recent earnings call. “We also expect our franchise partners to open at least nine locations in 2024, including four Jaggers.”     

Personal experience

I had the chance to visit a Jaggers that had recently opened on the northeast side of Louisville, Ky. My biggest takeaway? The growing interest and strong sales are no surprise. Jaggers is a fast casual brand with a drive-thru and a much smaller footprint than its “mother ship.” That said, much of Texas Roadhouse’s DNA is evident – scratch-made burgers and chicken sandwiches, fresh salads with homemade dressings, hand-spun milkshakes, abundant portions. The restaurant I visited was full at every corner – the dining room, drive-thru, back-of-house, front-of-house. The service was spot on. And, despite the smaller format, the restaurant felt almost casual dining-esque, with both booths and high-top table seating, as well as TVs. Every member of my family enjoyed their meal, including my picky 9-year-old. (and not just because of the shake). Who knows how big this thing will get, but I do know we’ll be back.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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