At the beginning of the pandemic, many were predicting that highly experiential concepts like Fogo de Chão would see the worst of it. It seemed impossible at the time to put the live entertainment of watching gaucho chefs carving grilled meat at each plate into a to-go box.
And yet, for the Brazilian-born international casual-dining chain based in Dallas, 2021 was a transformative year as Fogo de Chão launched its “journey back to joy.”
Like many restaurants during the shutdown, Fogo de Chão built an off-premises and catering business, keeping many of the gaucho chefs and managers employed to ensure the chain could ramp back up aggressively once COVID-related dining restrictions were lifted.
But the company also created new ways for guests to enjoy the churrasco stye of dining.
Outdoor spaces were expanded. The chain launched an all-day happy hour, and the menu was enhanced with more indulgent offerings, like premium porterhouse as part of the churrasco experience.
The company also reworked the bar as Bar Fogo, offering South American cocktails, like the classic Caipirinha, but also smaller, shareable plates, like Lobster & Shrimp Tacos and steaks, creating new dining occasions.
This year, a new prototype unit in Coral Gables, Fla., opened with a Butchery market, where guests can buy cuts of meat to cook at home, as well as the Next Level Lounge, an elevated bar offering premium whiskey, bourbon and aged rums.
“Through Bar Fogo and the Next Level Lounge, we’re able to diversify our dining occasions and offer guests new ways to experience our brand,” said Barry McGowan, CEO of parent company Fogo Hospitality Inc., in a statement. “Currently, our Bar Fogo experience is available nationwide. At this time, our Next Level Lounge experience is available at our new Coral Gables location and a few in Brazil, based on area demands.”
McGowan declined to share the chain’s off-premises or catering sales, but he said, “both platforms have become important and permanent offerings as new channels of revenue.”
With 48 domestic units, Fogo de Chão ended fiscal 2021 with U.S. sales of $415 million, a 113% increase. Average unit volumes grew to $9.4 million, more than doubling from $4.4 million in 2020.
Growth is on the agenda. The company plans to open eight to 10 corporate locations and one to two international franchise units in fiscal 2022, and, beyond that, maintain 15% company-unit growth annually while continuing to expand franchising, McGowan said.
Once a public company, Fogo de Chão was taken private in 2018 as a result of the acquisition by funds managed or advised by Rhône Group LLC. In late 2021, the company filed for an initial public offering that has yet to occur, though the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission were updated most recently in May.
McGowan said the company has no updates regarding the process at this time. With a recession looming, some predict that planned IPOs may get shelved.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
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