Famous Dave’s relative buys Bakers Square for pies

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BBQ Holdings buys Bakers Square for the same reason many customers go there in the first place: the pies.

Famous owner Dave’s has announced a $ 13.5 million deal to buy the chain with sister company Village Inn. CEO Jeff Crivello provided a simple reason for the acquisition on Friday. “There is nothing that goes better with a barbecue than an apple and peach pie,” he said.

This is a typical response from what has been a fairly atypical industry executive. Crivello took over the struggling barbecue chain in 2017. In the years that followed, he took many measures, often experimental, with the aim of improving the company’s profitability, co-branding agreements with several chains. to ghost kitchens, innovative partnerships and counter tests. drive-thru and serve.

But he’s also made acquisitions – the company bought Granite City last year – and in addition to the pies at Famous Dave’s, Crivello also has plans for Village Inn.

“It’s something that stands the test of time,” Crivello said of the 135-unit line. “It’s comfort food, All-America. Very good service. Cozy atmosphere. We have a prototype that we are working on for Village Inn, so that franchise partners can see our vision and understand that we think about the brand for a very long time.

Village Inn and Bakers Square have both had tough times over the years. Village Inn generated less than half of the sales it had made five years earlier and had a third fewer locations in 2020, according to data from Catering company sister company Technomic.

Bakers Square, which 15 years ago operated nearly 150 units mostly in the Midwest, now has just 13 locations. “They have undergone a restructuring,” said Crivello. “They closed all the underperforming restaurants. Those that remain are quite viable. We will definitely do what we do at Famous Dave’s and find a way to maximize restaurants for what they can be.

Village Inn and Bakers Square have a complex property history. Both chains were acquired by Fidelity National Financial in 2009 and placed under the aegis of American Blue Ribbon Holdings. But this company, which also owned O’Charley’s and 99 Restaurants, decided before the pandemic to stop funding the losses of the two family chains and filed for bankruptcy under a separate entity in January 2020.

During the bankruptcy process, each of these four chains was placed in separate companies, with American Blue Ribbon dissolved. The two chains, under a new company called VIBSQ, came out of bankruptcy last year. And then BBQ Holdings stepped in.

“We are delighted for them, for the inhabitants of the village hostel, for Bakers Square. It’s a good strategic decision, ”said Craig Barber, CEO of the two chains with O’Charley’s and 99. He will remain CEO of the latter chains after the agreement. “For us, it’s a good opportunity to build on all of these things over the past few years as we restructure and go through the process. Obviously, BBQ Holdings felt like it was a good place.

As for BBQ Holdings, the business is growing using three strategies. First, Crivello said, it’s about “maximizing what we have,” which is doing more with the great restaurants of existing chains, including Granite City and Famous Dave’s.

That’s why the company experimented with double concepts, ghost kitchens, and additional pickup points.

There is also organic growth. Dave’s is launching a new line of services – casual rather than casual fast food – and drive-thru prototypes, and operators plan to open locations in that prototype.

And then there are more mergers and acquisitions.

“We’re busy,” Crivello said of all the activities. “We are really proud of the teams and the effort they put in and the success they have had.”

When it comes to the pies, Crivello believes they will help Famous Dave’s while enjoying more of the brand that Bakers Square pies still have. So while there may be far fewer locations in Bakers Square, pies could find new life.

“We can put Bakers Square pies in all of our restaurants,” Crivello said. “We can go into retail and other larger distributions. While many Bakers Square restaurants have closed over the years, people are still asking for pies.

“There’s a line around the block during the holiday season to pick up their pumpkin and apple pies.”

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