- Famous Dave's, a full-service barbecue chain, opened its first drive-thru restaurant Monday in Salt Lake City. The unit, which is about half the size of a traditional Famous Dave's restaurant at 3,300 square feet compared to 6,500 square feet, used to be a second-generation KFC location, said Jeff Crivello, CEO of BBQ Holdings.
- The drive-thru location is franchised, and will be tested for six months to a year before determining possible expansion plans. Franchisees had requested corporate experiment with drive-thru, Crivello said.
- The chain also operates a prototype in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, and Las Vegas that uses frontline service like a Chipotle restaurant, Crivello said. These formats, dubbed "Quick 'Que" concepts, support the chain's off-premise business, which now makes up 50% of sales compared to 30% in 2017, Crivello said.
Quick 'Que restaurants are part of Famous Dave's three pillars of growth, which include latent capacity, new unit expansion, and mergers and acquisitions, Crivello said. The drive-thru restaurant was originally slated to open in September but was delayed due to supply chain, construction labor and permitting issues.
During the unit's test, Famous Dave's will strive to meet order fulfillment under four minutes and accrue sales per labor hour "at a much higher rate than what we're doing in our full-service restaurants," Crivello said. Famous Dave's full-service units rake in over $3 million in annual sales, he said.
Last year, Crivello estimated Quick 'Que concepts would require 3% to 4% less labor than a traditional unit. The average Quick 'Que only costs about half of what it takes to build a 6,000-square-foot full-service Famous Dave's restaurant as well, at about $600,000 to $1.2 million.
Crivello said barbecue is a good fit for QSR-style service because it isn't made on demand.
"Some of the proteins take 12 hours to smoke, so they're ready to go. It's just a matter of designing restaurants so that [the food] is served in a quicker time frame versus full-service," he said. "So instead of meeting with the host and ordering a drink or appetizer and then asking for the bill, it's going to be like the line at Chipotle. All of those steps of service get eliminated, but your experience is much faster."
Famous Dave's plans to open two to three additional frontline service restaurants this year, Crivello said. This builds on the company's recent growth, including five acquisitions by BBQ Holdings over the past two years. The company bought Granite City Food and Real Urban Barbecue in 2020, and Village Inn, Bakers Square and Tahoe Joe's in 2021.
But the chain is also optimizing latent capacity through ghost kitchen expansion dual concepts and virtual brand growth to strengthen topline performance. The company signed a 25-unit development deal with Bluestone Hospitality Group in 2020 to expand through ghost kitchens and co-branded restaurants, and a franchisee has rented space in a Cloud Kitchen facility.
"Convenience is the name. ... We're interested in partnering with other concepts that want to bring Famous Dave's into their restaurant. We're interested in partnering with people to bring their concepts into our restaurants," Crivello said.