Game, Set, Match: Sports bars
Twin Peaks ‘zee Fred Burgess fell in love with the idea of bringing a ski lodge atmosphere to South Florida, as well as the lucrative appeal of alcohol sales.
Winner: Twin Peaks
Finalists: Hooters, Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar, Oggi’s Sports Brewhouse Pizza
Twin Peaks fashions itself as a classier Hooters, where the servers are part of the show and the food is arguably a step up, which proves an enviable pairing for franchisees in this fast-growing system. Even with imagery that leans heavily on showing skin, Florida franchisee Fred Burgess refers to his four Twin Peaks as family restaurants that are more than delivering the goods for his budding portfolio.
Burgess first encountered Twin Peaks when co-founder and former CEO Randy Dewitt appeared on “Undercover Boss” in 2013. He liked what he saw and immediately began researching the brand.
A former real estate attorney, Burgess wasn’t a first-timer to franchising when he and his partner signed on the dotted line. His next big thing had to include a “heavy alcohol component” because of the enviable economics. After reading that a former Hooters CEO also bought into the system, Burgess felt that guy must know something positive about the system to leave such a mature brand for “tiny little” Twin Peaks.
“I learned that a successful restaurant was not just about how the food tastes, it’s about delivering an experience that you can’t get at home,” Burgess said. “I was talking to” my partner “Jack and said, ‘How cool is it to build essentially a ski lodge in South Florida that’s flat as a pancake and hot?’”
They opened their first location in 2015 after four months of prep. Five years later, Burgess has expanded to four restaurants, with two more under construction in the Sunshine State. His are now the first-, second- and third-best performing stores in the chain, which he attributes to a friendly culture and serving as a generalist for his team.
+ Two words: alcohol sales.
+ Atmosphere fits experiential trends in consumer spending.
- Can Twin Peaks thrive amid shifting social mores?
Based in Dallas, Twin Peaks is a casual-style sports bar chain known for the revealing outfits worn by its waitresses, with an atmosphere further defined by woodsy decor, extra-cold beer and American cuisine.
“You have to learn how to be a cheerleader, a sports expert, and an audio-visual expert because we have 85 to 90 TVs in each restaurant,” he said. “You need to be a beauty consultant, a babysitter because our servers are young … so Twin Peaks is not an easy brand to execute, but if you can execute it, it’s an amazing thing.”
Two thousand miles to the west, Carolyn Vangelos is a TP ‘zee in Arizona, following a career working for California Pizza Kitchen and a shorter stint working for a Buffalo Wild Wings franchise group.
At a career crossroads, she and her husband, Andy, knew they wanted to become franchisees themselves, but they didn’t know which brand was “the one.” In 2012, after meeting a Twin Peaks sales rep at a conference, they got excited, but then learned the corporation itself was building a store in their market, meaning they might have missed the boat.
They contacted the company and inquired about becoming the owners of the Scottsdale store, but the execs declined. They reached a compromise, and opened their first Twin Peaks in 2013 in a territory adjacent to the company-owned store. After turning in solid performances with the first two stores they built, they eventually convinced the company to sell the Scottsdale store in 2016, bringing them to three locations in three short years.
Vangelos and her husband have a fourth under construction, opening in Tempe this year, and they’re already plotting stores five and six. Before settling on the brand, she, her husband and business partner considered a number of concepts in the restaurant space.
“We thought about doing a breakfast concept, a cafe concept, and we kept getting drawn back to the fact that Twin Peaks is a sports bar,” she said. “There’s just something very special about it, and I still believe it to this day.”
In-person investigation by speaking with existing franchisees was the most important part of their research of the brand and, back then, its average unit volumes were around $4 million, impressive for any restaurant.
Eight years in, Vangelos spends a lot of time thinking about commodity prices, and negotiating contracts to lock in favorable pricing to keep their own profit margins “as tight as we possibly can.”
Vangelos credits the corporate office for outstanding staff training, and its marketing department that works together on a variety of buzz-building campaigns.
“We’re not in this for fun, we’re here to make money,” she added. “This is our third build, and we’re constantly looking at ways to save on construction, ways to quicken the time to get the doors open from the time you sign the lease or buy property.”
With a total of 318 locations, the Texas-based franchisor is poised for further growth after a big cash infusion from ApplePie Capital. With nearly 550,000 followers on social media, one of the big questions is what Twin Peaks looks like as social mores continue to change in the #MeToo era.
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