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Ex-NFL Star Growing Stacked Pickle Affordably


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Gary Brackett making Friends. Courtesy of Stacked Pickle

Like he focused on the block and tackle, Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl champion linebacker Gary Brackett is laser focused on ROI. 

After he retired, he went back to school for an MBA and set his sights on restaurants. 

“I’ve always had this servant heart, I think the restaurant industry is the best place to be and to serve,” said Brackett. “It’s the ultimate team sport. It’s competitive, it’s not as full contact as football but there are a lot of moving parts. It’s extremely exciting.” 

But when he signed on with an unnamed sports bar franchise, the costs were staggering, even with his NFL savings.  

“They denied all my franchise locations. In their model, they wanted me to spend $2.5 million in land and build a new building; that was very intimidating even though I had the finances,” said Brackett. 

With his fresh MBA training in mind, the math just didn’t make sense to him. And he saw the same issue across the casual dining and sports bar sector of franchising. 

“Even if you’re a Ruby Tuesday, if they put $1.8 million in a location and doing $1.6 to $1.8 million in sales, they probably can’t pay their debt service,” said Bracket. “But if you put in $500,000 and do $1.8 million, you’re doing fine, you’re profitable.” 

So he got out of the expensive concept and became a silent investor in Stacked Pickle, then bought out the founder in 2014. Now he said he’s growing the Indianapolis-based sports bar brand on his terms for a lot less than his direct competitors. 

“Our initial cost of investing of $425,000 to $900,000 is almost half or a third of our competitors,” said Brackett. And with a $1.5 million average unit volume, he says the locations are profitable fast. 

He said he’s able to hit that mark by favoring second-generation locations. The bulk of his 10 corporate locations are former bars or restaurants in the Indianapolis area. 

Of course that means finding second-generation properties that “didn’t fail because of location,” Brackett said. 

As for the concept, Brackett said he still lives and breathes the sporting life, and tailored the concept to fit into that sporting life. The menu isn’t just gut-busting burgers and wings. It’s a wide-ranging menu of those classic bar foods along with rice bowls, wraps and salads. He said for the postseason Cubs games, he saw the same people four or five times in a week. 

“People can come and not get the same thing,” said Brackett. 

Brackett aims to grow by about six to 10 locations a year and has signed on franchisees in the Houston and Orlando markets. He said the best operator is a lot like him: a handshaking, friend-making dynamo. 

“Our ideal franchisee is probably a corporate executive or someone who was a coach in their community and loves to give back. A servant, who loves to get out and make new friends,” said Brackett. “We always laugh and say we want our GMs to be the mayor of the town. It’s the same for our franchisees, we want them out shaking hands at the chamber meeting.” 

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is managing editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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