Dave Anderson Puts Fame Back into Famous Dave’s
“Famous Dave” Anderson, founder of Famous Dave’s of America, has rejoined the company as part of a reorganization seeking to reverse the fortunes of the Minneapolis-based barbecue chain beset by falling sales and a succession of leadership changes.
The company said bringing Anderson back is part of a move including several new managers of the its board of directors and executive management team in recent months.
Adam Wright, interim CEO for Famous Dave’s, said the company is “working hard to get Famous Dave’s back on track” and that he was excited to have the founder back into the fold.
“Dave Anderson brings a wealth of current Bar-B-Que knowledge, experience and passion, and I know our guests are excited to see ‘Famous’ back, serving up his award-winning Bar-B-Que,” Wright said.
Without listing Anderson’s new title, he added that Anderson will help the company rebuild its culture and improve the guest experience.
Anderson resigned as Chairman from Famous Dave’s in 2004 after being appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Affairs. Afterward, he returned to the company as its spokesman, but resigned again in 2014 following disagreements over the company’s Wall Street-focused leadership.
As his namesake chain shed stores and its flagship location in Hayward, Wisconsin burned to the ground last fall, Anderson started his own quick-service barbecue chain called Jimmie’s Old Southern BBQ, named after his late father.
The first Jimmie’s opened in Hayward last spring, with a second scheduled to open this fall in Rice Lake, a small town an hour south in western Wisconsin. Anderson will continue running Jimmie’s while also working for Famous Dave’s.
“The concept is different than Famous Dave’s, with a quick-serve format, a smaller menu and new recipes,” Anderson said. “The market for Bar-B-Que is growing explosively, and there is plenty of room for the many different types of Bar-B-Que in America.”
Mark Smith, a senior analyst with Minneapolis-based Feltl & Company, has followed the company for more than a decade and said the announcement is “interesting and may be a positive for the company.”
“Dave is well regarded within the organization, and I think this is a sign to the operators and franchisees that they will focus on the BBQ roots,” he said.
He added that Anderson has “fantastic insights” into the food and operations of the company, and that his recent experience with Jimmie’s may give Famous Dave’s some ideas to “perhaps copy what Dave has done with his new concept.”
A frequent underperformer since going public in 1996, Famous Dave’s has employed seven different CEOs, with the most recent lasting just 17 months.
Previous CEO, Ed Rensi—former former CEO of McDonald’s—joined Famous Dave’s in January 2014 and quickly developed a new prototype including craft beers, flatbreads and flat-screen TVs. He set a goal to refranchise company restaurants from approximately 73% of the total to 85% to 90% franchised. His moves didn’t resonate with customers, and he stepped down in June.
Famous Dave’s currently has 44 company-owned restaurant and 136 franchisee-run units, with locations in 33 states, Puerto Rico and Canada.
Check out my recent Franchise Times story HERE for an in-depth look at Dave’s new concept and insights into what went wrong at Famous Dave’s.