Sales at a typical Famous Dave’s casual barbecue restaurant soared 43.9% from year-ago levels during the first 25 days of March, a telling sign that consumers are returning to full-service restaurants as vaccinations increase and indoor-dining limits are eased.
Comparable sales at sister concept Granite City Food and Brewery soared 60.8%. Sales at the brewpub chain, the smaller operation by far, dropped 23.6% in February.
Parent company BBQ Holdings did not break down results for March on a week-by-week basis, making it difficult to determine how much of the same-store sales increases may be attributable to easy comparisons. The pandemic was declared on March 11, 2020, and states started ordering restaurants to close their dining rooms about a week later. Most full-service operations reported a near-vertical drop in sales by the end of the month.
Nor did BBQ Holdings reveal what portion of either chain’s indoor seating was in use as of March 25. Fully half of Granite City’s dining rooms were fully closed through the fourth quarter, and 59% of Famous Dave’s restaurants were offering only takeout and delivery. Many of the states where the two brands operate have raised their capacity caps in recent weeks.
“As we emerge from the effects of the pandemic, we are beginning to see sales ramp up to levels at or above pre-pandemic levels,” BBQ Holdings CEO Jeff Crivello said in a statement. “We are thankful that our customers have remained faithful to our brands and are beginning to return to our restaurants as regulations ease.”
BBQ Holdings noted that it is continuing to use its own restaurants and other concepts as ghost kitchens. Eleven facilities are currently producing Famous Dave’s items in markets where the brand does not yet have a presence. Five of those kitchens are Granite City facilities operated by the company. Another six are kitchens serving Famous Dave’s franchisees.
The ghost facilities are in addition to the 145 brick-and-mortar locations that BBQ operates or franchises.