Granite City’s new owner plans to bring back the founder

The plan was revealed after BBQ Holdings, also the parent of Famous Dave’s, completed its $7.5 million acquisition of the brand.
granite city brewery

The parent of the Famous Dave’s barbecue chain said it intends to bring back the founder of its new sister concept, Granite City Food & Brewery, to help in rejuvenating the brand.

BBQ Holdings, whose holdings also include Real Famous BBQ and Clark Crew BBQ, completed the acquisition of 18-unit Granite City yesterday for about $3.7 million. It said this morning that Granite City founder Steve Wagenheim would be brought back into the operation “in an effort to operate the stores with a guest-first attitude.” The terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

A pillar of BBQ Holdings’ operational strategy has been to keep a brand connected to its founder. The company’s core business, Famous Dave’s, recently introduced a fried chicken sandwich named after the mother of founder Dave Anderson. Iris’ Comeback Chicken Sandwich was inspired by the fried chicken that Iris Anderson made for her son Dave and barbecue-loving husband, Jimmie.

Clark Crew BBQ, another new addition to BBQ’s fold, was developed as showcase for pit master Travis Clark, a star of the competitive barbecue circuit. The company has said it will maintain Clark’s day-to-day connection with Clark Crew, which currently consists of a lone unit in Oklahoma. Other concepts affiliated with a barbecue star will likely follow, the company said when the prototype opened in December.

In announcing the completion of the Granite City purchase, BBQ Holdings said 18 restaurants were included in the deal. The operation was purchased after Granite City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time, Granite City extended to 25 locations.

Granite City also had a sister chain, four-unit Cadillac Ranch. Tilman Fertitta’s Landry’s restaurant empire acquired three of the stores for $7.5 million as part of the bankrupt company’s breakup and liquidation.

“As an originator of the craft beer trend, with a strong and consistent product across all of its locations, Granite City Food & Brewery is a fantastic addition to the BBQ Holdings portfolio,” BBQ CEO Jeff Crivello said in a statement. “We intend to leverage and utilize much of our infrastructure in an effort to absorb this iconic brand to ensure an accretive transaction.”

Crivello said the acquisition of Granite City should add $2.2 million to EBITDA for the three quarters that remain in BBQ's fiscal year.

Wagenheim spent 14 years with Granite City, parlaying his single store into a 50-unit operation within that time. “Wagenheim’s vision has always been to create an exceptional guest experience by delivering outstanding hospitality and distinctive value to all guests,” BBQ said in disclosing its plan to reinvolve the founder.

Crivello has revealed his intention to amass brands under the umbrella of BBQ Holdings, which was formerly called Famous Dave’s of America. With the Granite additions, the company operates 50 restaurants and franchises an additional 94 outlets.

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