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Famous Dave's Bbq Report

In: Business and Management

Submitted By hustle4
Words 3892
Pages 16
Famous Dave’s Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que
Industry Overview: It is no secret that the current economic recession in America has hurt an unfathomable amount of businesses across the country over the past five or so years. Declining profits and shrinking annual sales have forced countless companies in all industries to either shut down, or implement substantial cutbacks and layoffs. This difficult economic climate has made competition fiercer than ever, especially in the food service industry. Though some fast food chains and quick-stop value food shops have experienced thriving revenues attributed to the provision of primarily inferior goods (goods that people generally buy more of when they have less disposable income), many sit-down restaurants, from casual to fine dining, have been desperate to survive the current catastrophe. For the most part, dining out is considered a luxury; unfortunately, luxuries have fallen dramatically on the priority lists of most personal and family expenditures in recent years. Restaurant owners are well-aware of this, and they have been doing whatever it takes to keep revenue losses to a minimum. Famous Dave’s BBQ chain of family restaurants is one company that has used innovation, authenticity, enthusiasm, and true grit to offer a service so unique, that it is practically fail-proof. Though various popular American restaurant chains, such as Chili’s, Texas Roadhouse, and The Golden Corral, as well as the hundreds of lower-scale BBQ shacks in the Midwest and down south are considered to be serious competitors, none of them offer a repertoire comparable to that of Famous Dave’s. Though the chain, like its competitors, has had to face recent economic obstacles, Famous Dave’s has made several strategic moves to continually bring new consumers in, and consistently keep loyal customers satisfied. With a strong emphasis on value, quality, variety, and outstanding customer service, paired with a versatile line of offered services, Famous Dave’s is well-prepared for and built to last through the current turmoil in America’s food service industry.
Company Background: After twenty-five years of pilgrimages across the country to thousands of barbecue restaurants in search for the best barbecue known to man, Dave W. Anderson came up with his own rib smoking process and sauce recipe. He tested dozens of time periods and temperatures for smoking meat in hundreds of smoking devices, including aluminum trash barrels until he produced the perfect juiciness and tenderness in his ribs, chicken, pork, and brisket. Similarly-rigorous testing of various combinations of herbs and spices was implemented before he mastered the final recipe for his award-winning Rich & Sassy BBQ sauce. Finally, all of his traveling, taste-testing, and backbreaking work had paid off; Dave was now officially an educated and experienced barbecue master with his own original product.
Equipped with passion, eagerness, and a delicious lineup of BBQ recipes, Dave, opened the first official Famous Dave’s location in Hayward, Wisconsin in 1994 at the age of forty. The restaurant’s original sign read “Famous Dave’s BBQ Shack”, with the Adirondack Lodge-style location experiencing success from the very start. Serving as many as one thousand guests in a night, Dave knew he could expand and potentially bring his dream of owning a nationwide BBQ chain to fruition. Expansion began with a location in BBQ-rich Linden Hills, Minneapolis in 1995. The location was a smaller shack, filled with antiques and fun murals that were reminiscent of the BBQ shacks that filled the South 50 years prior. As with the first Dave’s location, travelers from all over demanded more restaurants in their neighborhoods. Accordingly, Dave expanded further in 1996 to Calhoun Square, Minneapolis, opening Famous Dave’s BBQ & Blues. This location set the blueprint for current Famous Dave’s locations. Dave hired a Hollywood design company to deck out the restaurant interior to look and feel like a true-to-life blues club, inspired by the classic blues clubs found in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. The restaurant was an instant hit, combing foot-stomping live blues music from both local and national acts with phenomenal southern-style BBQ; red-checkered table cloths decorated with heaping platters of smoked meat, barbecue sauce, and classic soul-food sides and infectious blues compositions created an atmosphere that garnered critical acclaim and national recognition. After less than a decade of business, the BBQ & Blues restaurant won “Best Music”, “Best Blues Vocalist”, “Best Take-Out Menu”, and “Best Restaurant Design” awards from regional culinary competitions and news publications.
The rest, as they say, is history. As of December, 2011, less than 18 years since Dave first founded the company, the Famous Dave’s chain consists of 187 locations spread over 37 different US states. As the restaurant has expanded across the country, the food menu has followed suit to appease a variety of consumer preferences. Each restaurant now uses the same menu, consisting of various BBQ meat combination platters, a diverse lineup of appetizers, original recipe soups, fresh salads, over a dozen creative burgers and sandwiches, low-calorie options, and 9 different side options. Like most chain restaurants’, their menu is changed periodically with price alterations and food item additions/discontinuations.
Dave’s currently employs approximately 8,415 people, including in-house management, catering teams, cooks, servers, bartenders, and hosts with an average of 45 workers per restaurant. Dave Anderson himself is featured in every employee training video, welcoming new “Famous team members” with open arms. In the videos, he shares his story to inspire new employees to consider themselves part of a national Famous Dave’s culture. Dave walks viewers through every aspect of every job, from safety procedures to food & drink preparation to customer service in over 5 hours of film. By the time new employees complete training, most feel as though they know Dave personally; thus, they “share his vision and get a sense of duty to not let Dave down”, as local Springfield, MA Famous Dave’s general manager, Rush Blankenship puts it.
Every Famous Dave’s restaurant offers several services aside from the sit-down restaurant & bar and phone-in takeout services. Dave’s offers professional catering for all events from 15-250 people with a full menu. Catering teams travel in a red catering truck emblazoned with the company logo and contact info that contains heating and storage units for food items. Folding tables and chairs are also available upon request. Many Dave’s locations offer lunch buffets, all-you-can-eat for $8.99 that includes soft drinks. Also, some restaurants host weekly antique car shows in their parking lots with prize raffles and live entertainment.
Strategic Elements: Famous Dave’s may be considered as a “specialty restaurant”, as they have earned a common classification of being a BBQ restaurant. Though accurate, the BBQ Restaurant title can be limiting; people who don’t enjoy BBQ may dismiss the restaurant, regardless of the dozens of non-BBQ items they offer. Dave Anderson and his corporate marketing team understand the perceptual limits that their classification can place on consumers; this has resulted in strategic positioning of every Dave’s location to be within reach of their core consumers. Rush Blankenship colorfully explains, “Let’s face it: putting a Famous Dave’s next to a hair salon or Nordstrom would be foolish. Why? What population generally shops at those places most? Women who enjoy looking pretty. They don’t want to get all sauced up from feasting on a big pile of smoked meat. Looking out our windows, you see a Lowe’s across the street and a Toys ‘R’ Us out back. There’s a reason for that”. Rush is addressing both Famous Dave’s positioning and their target markets. Men and married couples with children are the two main target markets for Famous Dave’s, as they represent the populations with a higher likelihood of giving a BBQ restaurant such as Dave’s a shot. Most locations are placed within a close radius of hardware stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, sporting goods stores like Dick’s, Cabela’s, and Sports Authority, and family shopping destinations like Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R’ Us, Costco, and Target. These are all stores that serve predominately male clientele and/or families; they share similar target markets. This benefits both the retail chains and the Dave’s restaurants through reciprocity. Another important factor to address is that the concentration of Famous Dave’s locations is much higher in regions that have a taste for and history of BBQ food. Midwestern and Southern states have historically demanded BBQ food significantly more than New England and West Coast. Famous Dave’s has positioned their restaurants accordingly.
Image has played a valuable role in Famous Dave’s success over the years. When Dave Anderson decided to expand on a massive scale, his vision was to create a family-friendly hangout where people would have fun, feel comfortable, unwind, and enjoy fresh, quality food in generous portions without emptying their wallets. This vision has served as the ideal model for the chain’s public image. Conscience efforts to produce and maintain that image have proven effective. Print and commercial ads feature large families of all ages surrounded by fresh, hot, juicy BBQ while bearing big smiles, casually dressed, and surrounded by friendly employees. “Truth be told, the image we promote in our ads replicates a real Friday night here”, asserts Rush in a confident tone that welcomes people to challenge his statement. Rush also noted that he stays on top of his employees every shift, sincerely begging them to make every guest feel welcome and valuable; “My bosses have made me care more and more through how deeply they care. I want to do the same for these guys. If you look at the weekly schedule for servers, the people with the most shifts every week are those who come here with a positive attitude, have fun with their guests, and turn any mistakes into opportunities to smoothly show our clientele how badly we want them to enjoy their experience and dine with is again. This is why our store is consistent with the image Dave asks us to preserve”. The eagerness and enthusiasm of Dave’s front-of-the-house staff creates a positive domino effect, where most guests are happier and more pleasant when they receive exceptional service.
Famous Dave’s has a plethora of tangible aspects that support and enhance their image. Though they are a service provider, one of their biggest strengths is their tangibility. The restaurant sells a range of merchandise from clothing to food products for guests to take home. At every table, there is a caddy with five original barbecue sauces for guests to try and slather on their food. There’s the original mild BBQ, Rich & Sassy, a sweet brown-sugar BBQ, Sweet & Zesty, a peppery smoky BBQ, Texas Pit, a spicy BBQ, Devil’s Spit, and a vinegar-based sauce, Georgia Mustard . First-time guests are given a “sauce tour” from servers, where they get to dip complimentary home-made potato chips in the sauces to sample each before their meals are served. Each sauce is for sale for $2.99 in a sealed and labeled 20oz bottle. T-shirts with original comical quotes on the back, such as “Home of the big Slab” and “Proud Member of Generation Pork” are sold for $15 with the Famous Dave’s logo on the front-left breast. Employees wear these shirts, paired with blue jeans and a pig-shaped nametag reading “Famous (Name)”. Also, Dave’s marquee menu item, The All-American Famous Feast, is served in a large aluminum trash can lid to pay homage to the classic method of smoking ribs in aluminum trash barrels. The feast is a huge portion of food that feeds 4-6 people, including 4 corn bread muffins, 4 ears of corn, a full roasted chicken (cut into legs and breasts), 12oz of a choice of smoked Georgia Chopped Pork or Texas Beef Brisket (or 6 oz of each ½ & ½), a full slab of BBQ pork St. Louis Style spare ribs (12 bones), a quart of Creamy Coleslaw, a quart of spicy baked Wilbur (the company’s pig mascot) Beans (both substitutable for other sides), and 2lbs of thick-cut potato wedge Famous Fries. The enormous pile of food presented in the trash can lid over red-checkered wax paper and mounted on a wooden tripod stand is iconic. Dave’s employees systematically draw attention to the BBQ masterpiece by yelling out, “Feast walkin’ out!” in the kitchen to the cooks and expo staff for the guests to hear, followed by a hearty “Thanks, Feast!” reply from the kitchen staff. The deep chants are reminiscent of a football team huddle’s “Break!”.
Other tangibles include Wilbur the Pig mascots in every restaurant that wave cars into the lots, red-checkered table cloths that resemble classic BBQ picnic tables, vivid and well-organized menus with Dave Anderson on the cover and several food items featured on every menu fold, bright-red large catering trucks, Famous Dave’s hats, original recipe cookbooks that include the company’s history (pictures of original locations and stories about Dave’s journey), nostalgic down-home BBQ decorations and signs on restaurant walls and ceilings, a classic upbeat Blues soundtrack constantly playing over the speakers, and wood carvings of Black Bears holding a “welcome” sign in the front entrance of every location. Replicas of the dozens of trophies and plaques Dave’s has won in BBQ taste competitions are displayed behind every host stand, showing guests how renowned and famous their food is. All of these things transform Dave’s food service into a tangible experience (visually and physically). Also, Dave Anderson himself is a recognizable figure to guests (like Dave from Wendy’s), with pictures from his past framed all over the walls of each restaurant and several appearances on The Food Network.
Famous Dave’s main differential advantage over its competitors is that they serve only authentic legendary pit BBQ, modeled after classic Midwestern BBQ. Critics have consistently confirmed their authenticity, as they smoke all of their meat in-house using the slow and low method (long smoking time at low temperatures), whereas many competitors that serve BBQ items use artificial liquid smoke flavoring and steam, rather than smoke their meat. The company prides themselves on their organic cooking process that produces a taste that cannot be replicated using any other process. Rush Blankenship states, “Authentic is Famous Dave’s. We’re the real deal”. Also, many Dave’s restaurants are located in regions where there are not many BBQ alternatives, so they essentially have dominance in the BBQ niche. If people are craving BBQ, Dave’s may be their only option, or at least a popular option.
Though Dave’s boasts unmatched authenticity, other restaurants that serve BBQ items are apparent threats. Family restaurants such as Chili’s, Texas Roadhouse, T-Bones, Buffalo Wild Wings, Red Robin, Smokey Bones, and Ruby Tuesday’s are often located in close vicinity to Dave’s locations. Because most of them are not only known for BBQ items, consumers may choose to eat at those restaurants instead of Dave’s, as they feel as though they will have more food options to choose from. Also, independent BBQ restaurants/shacks pose a threat in areas where BBQ food is more prominent, as people in those regions have more options to allow them to be picky about what BBQ they choose to eat.
Pricing and advertising go hand-in-hand at Famous Dave’s. The chain thrives off of value, offering generous portions at reasonable prices. Dave’s keeps their dining rooms full with daily specials, including their $8.99 unlimited weekday lunch buffet, a smaller-portion lunch value menu, kids-eat-for-free Mondays, Feast for Two Tuesdays ($22.22 opposed to $35 menu price), $2-off burgers and sandwiches on Wednesdays, Thirsty Thursdays ($2 domestic 16oz drafts, $4 pitchers), and Feast for Four Fridays ($44.44 opposed to $65 menu price). All of the aforementioned specials are advertised in basic cable commercials, newspaper ads, posted signs on front and back doors, and on their website’s home page.
Famous Dave’s commercial and print ads effectively depict family fun and mouth-watering food. They are visually stimulating, packed with vibrant colors and catchy phrases. The chain also offers promotions on every guest receipt for take-out and dine-in; each check lists a 1-800 corporate phone number where guests can call and take a 5-minute automated customer satisfaction survey, rating customer service, cleanliness, food quality, atmosphere, food delivery timing, and presentation on a 1-to-5 scale using their dial pads. Upon completion, guests receive a code that will award them 20% their entire check for their next visit. This encourages repeat visits, as an incentive is given (discount coupon), guests feel as though they have a voice in the restaurants’ operations, and guests know that they will be provided with the same discount opportunity after every visit. The surveys also benefit the company, as they are a means of effective feedback that helps them gage their overall performance,
Historically, survey results for most Dave’s locations have been positive overall. This has a lot to do with their famous service. From the moment a guests enters Dave’s to the moment they leave, they are treated like royalty. Upon entering the building, guests are greeted immediately by a friendly host/hostess, “Welcome to Famous Dave’s, I’m Famous ¬¬¬______!". Guests are then seated accommodatingly based on preference of table, booth, or bar-top, and party size, as well as high chairs and booster seats. Once seated, guests are greeted by and introduced to their server within 2 minutes and asked how they are, if they have been to the location before, what they would like to drink, and if they would like an appetizer (specific beers/mixed drinks, soft drinks, and appetizers are always mentioned by servers with attractive adjectives). Before the server leaves, they let their party know that they are welcome to ask for any assistance with ordering/recommendations. After receiving drinks (within 2 minutes), guests are asked if they need help with the menu or if they need more time (“no rush, take your time”), and orders are taken and recited back to guests to ensure accuracy. Servers offer time quotes depending on restaurant volume and the items and quantity ordered, usually quoted longer than they are in reality to offer realistic expectations. After orders are placed, servers return with a complimentary bowl of home-made potato chips for guests to snack on while they wait for their food. The chips are also aids in entertaining guests as servers go through and explain each sauce on the table for guests to sample one-at-a-time. Appetizers are delivered promptly (if ordered, usually between sauce tours and entrée delivery), and table touches are done every few minutes to check on customer satisfaction, refills, and other needs. These table touches are done by management as well, assuring guests that they are a major priority. Food is then delivered as soon as it is ready, and servers ask if guests would like anything else with their meals (butter, napkins, extra plates, etc…). After 2-3 minutes of entrée delivery, periodic table touches are done to ensure satisfaction and fulfill any guest requests/needs. Once entrees are finished, take-home boxes & bags and sauce packets/bottles are offered, followed by dessert. After food is wrapped up and dessert is delivered (if ordered), guests receive their checks and are informed about the 20% off survey opportunity in a “help us help you” manner. After payment, guests are sincerely thanked and receive a genuine and friendly farewell, with a “we would love to have you again” accent. The customer service steps at Dave’s are meant to outdo those of other restaurants to create a memorable experience worth coming back for. Exceptional service mixed with fun music and a laid-back atmosphere make for a pleasant night out.
Company Analysis:
-Authentic BBQ food items
-Strong reputation/popularity in the BBQ restaurant niche
-Rich in culture and history
-Strong emphasis on customer satisfaction
-Versatile facility usage
-Variety of services offered
-Great value
-Effective positioning
-Fun and attractive atmosphere
-Heavy tangibility
-Enthusiastic and genuine staff
-Wide range of menu options/alterations/substitutions
-High customer return/loyalty rate
-Critically acclaimed
-Decorated culinary awards list
-Consistent quality product
-Positive & welcoming family and value-based image
-Steady growth/expansion
-Effective management-to-part-time employee communication
-Large restaurant/special capacity
-Low-calorie menu for lighter eaters (NEW)

-BBQ classification imposes perceptual consumer limits
-Not as well known/widespread as some competitors
-Lack of national/primetime advertising
-No celebrity endorsements
-Female clientele underrepresented
-BBQ food’s popularity is somewhat seasonal
-Since the chain is family-oriented, single guests may feel out of place
-May not be “classy enough” for guests looking for a fancy night out

-Further expansion
-Franchise locations in New England are 2-year franchises. If successful, up to 12 new locations will be built in the New England area over the next decade

-Independent BBQ restaurants/shacks
-Chain restaurants (competitors) that offer wider food variety, some BBQ items
-Economic crisis in America
-Rising popularity of health-conscience eating trends in American society

What do they do particularly well? Famous Dave’s capitalizes on the combination their fun atmosphere, impeccable customer service, and high value. Having all of these things makes them an attractive eating destination that guests often brag about. Intertwining unique decorations, caring and enthusiastic servers and managers, and large portions of food for low prices (comparably), Famous Dave’s has created a formula for success. The chain stands out from the average family restaurant because of the hard work they put in to ensure guest satisfaction, and the embracing of their own special culture and image. Rather than rely on expensive and extravagant commercial advertising, they let the actual customer experience do the talking.
Famous Dave’s has what it takes to be much more successful and profitable than they currently are. Celebrity endorsements and a more aggressive/widespread advertising campaign could only help them in the long-run. It seems as though the chain is complacent with being lower-scale popularity-wise. Also, more marketing concentration on the fact that they offer a good amount of non-BBQ menu items, as well as a low-calorie menu could help them expand their audience and market share. Given its current operations and position in the market, I feel as though the long-range outlook for Famous Dave’s is bright. So long as they continue to offer a quality product to value-minded consumers, while maintaining their passion and enthusiasm, Dave’s has the ability to remain a powerhouse in the BBQ food restaurant market. The company also has the potential to broaden their customer base with some well-thought out, feasible advertising. When an already-successful restaurant chain is undoubtedly capable of overcoming their current perceptual limits, they are a force to be reckoned with. Famous Dave’s’ current weaknesses are far from impossible to work on and turn into future strengths. This is a company that is certainly worth investing in, with stock prices steadily rising from $3 average/share at the heart of 2008’s economic recession to a current price of almost $13/share (an increase of over 330% in under four years!).

-Rush Blankenship, GM of Famous Dave’s of Springfield, MA
-Over 2 years of education and personal work experience with Famous Dave’s (Chris Scott)

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