Two well-known restaurants in Colorado Springs have combined forces — and menus — under one roof.
Famous Dave’s, the national barbecue chain, shuttered its 13-year-old restaurant Aug. 23 on the city’s north side near the Chapel Hills Mall.
But on Aug. 31, Famous Dave’s reopened at 5245 N. Academy Blvd. and now shares the space with Texas T-Bone Steakhouse, which has operated at the location for 15 years. Texas T-Bone, which had been closed for 5½ months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopened the same day with Famous Dave’s.
“Two legendary restaurants, one building,” according to a “now open” banner that carries the logos of the businesses in what’s being called a dual-branded restaurant concept.
The decision to combine the restaurants in one building reflects a change in corporate strategy for Famous Dave’s, while providing an opportunity for the owner of Texas T-Bone to expand his sales by tapping into Famous Dave’s popular carryout and catering business.
Famous Dave’s, based in suburban Minneapolis, announced in late 2019 that it would begin rolling out smaller restaurants of about 3,000 square feet — roughly half the size of its traditional buildings. The chain said it would open five to 10 of the smaller spaces by the end of 2020.
The chain had 134 locations in 33 states as of early this year; about three-fourths of those restaurants were operated by franchisees and the rest were company owned.
Famous Dave’s decision to add smaller locations was planned before the advent of the pandemic, which led Colorado and other states to temporarily close restaurant dining rooms to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Al Hank, Famous Dave’s senior vice president of operations, said the chain already had taken note of changing habits on the part of its customers. In the past, 20% to 30% of Famous Dave’s revenue came from takeout and catering; that number has soared to 50% over the last couple of years, Hank said.
In Colorado Springs, 40-year restaurateur Dave Crimmins, who owns the Texas T-Bone Steakhouse brand, said he saw Hank interviewed about Famous Dave’s plans to introduce smaller restaurants.
Crimmins contacted the chain and launched talks about combining their restaurants in the Springs; coincidentally, Hank said, Famous Dave’s lease on its building near the Chapel Hills Mall was expiring.
The two parties reached an agreement, and Crimmins now is a franchisee for Famous Dave’s. He operates that brand alongside his Texas T-Bone Steakhouse inside the 6,360-square-foot building he owns on North Academy.
Crimmins’ Texas T-Bone had been closed since mid-March, when Gov. Jared Polis ordered the temporary shutdown of restaurant dining rooms. Even after that order was relaxed in late May, dining rooms were capped at 50% capacity or 50 people, and Crimmins decided against reopening Texas T-Bone until the pandemic had passed.
With the arrival of Famous Dave’s at his building, however, Crimmins reopened Texas T-Bone.
Up to now, Texas T-Bone did not offer takeout, delivery or catering, he said. But Famous Dave’s had a thriving takeout business, which Crimmins continues to offer — adding his Texas T-Bone steaks to Famous Dave’s barbecue fare. He’s also continuing Famous Dave’s catering, though he hasn’t yet added steaks to that portion of his business.
“If 50% of my business now is takeout, that’s 50% that I didn’t have before,” Crimmins said. “With the social distancing that we have to have, that’s reduced our inside dining by 50%. So with the carryout that we’re doing, the catering that we’re doing, it’s just been a tremendous boost.
“We’re actually more than double what we were doing the same time last year, pre-COVID,” he added. “It’s the takeout, it’s the catering and it’s the stronger lunches that Famous Dave’s has brought to the table.”
Famous Dave’s already had streamlined its menu because of the pandemic, though its core barbecue items remain. Texas T-Bone has done the same, Crimmins said.
Some of Famous Dave’s barbecue equipment was moved to the Texas T-Bone Steakhouse building, which was freshened up with the addition of some of Famous Dave’s tables, booths and wall décor, Crimmins said. He also upgraded the property, adding more patio seating for social distancing purposes and xeriscaping a lawn area.
Crimmins said he offered jobs to all of Famous Dave’s 40 employees, most of whom came over to Texas T-Bone. The dual-branded restaurant now employs about 55 people, he said.
Crimmins also licenses his Texas T-Bone Steakhouse brand to two operators in Nebraska and Kansas. He also licensed it to an operator of a Texas T-Bone at 2070 S. Academy in Colorado Springs, but that location closed permanently in April, Crimmins said.