Famous Dave’s expanding N.D. presence

Famous Dave’s, a restaurant chain with locations in 34 states, one Canadian province and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, is looking to bring its distinct brand of barbecue to more North Dakotans in the coming years.

Victor Salamone, vice president of franchise operations and development at Famous Dave’s, said the barbecue franchise, which was founded by Dave Anderson in Hayward, Wis., in 1994 and has won more than 700 awards for its cooking, said they are excited to be expanding their restaurant base in North Dakota.

“We have seen a great deal of success in North Dakota, and we don’t have company restaurants there, but we have two franchise groups,” Salamone said.

Salamone said around 70 percent of their restaurants, like those in North Dakota, are franchised. There are currently two Famous Dave’s in the state, located in Fargo and Bismarck. A third, owned by brothers Casey and Pat Ryan, will be opening in Williston this fall, most likely in December. The Ryans also have the territory rights to several other cities, including Minot and Dickinson.

“They are building as fast as the economy will let them,” Salamone said. “You guys are just exploding up there and it’s really hard to find people to do the construction.”

Something that makes the Williston location unique is the addition of some apartments above the restaurant that will be rented out to employees, which Salamone called a first for Famous Dave’s.

“They are building housing along with the restaurant to make sure that they can attract the best of the best when it comes to Famous team members. It’s exciting to see their progress,” he said. “That is outside the box for restaurant development but I’m glad the Ryans have the foresight and the wherewithal to be thinking of doing business according to how business needs to be done in the territories that they’re developing.”

Currently the Ryans are pouring much of their time and effort into getting the Williston location online. Once that is accomplished, they will look at other markets in the state. While a Minot location is planned, Salamone doesn’t know what kind of timeline it’s on. He said real estate is currently being evaluated for a suitable location, but that’s as far as things have progressed. He also said the scarcity of available construction crews will be another challenge the Ryan brothers must overcome.

However, having faced many of the same difficulties in Williston, Salamone said the Ryans will be able to apply the lessons learned there to Minot.

Salamone said everyone seems to be interested in North Dakota right now, not only because of the economy, but because of the people. While the barbecue might grab the headlines, Salamone said it’s their customer service that makes the Famous Dave’s experience so special.

“We have wonderful customer satisfaction, not only scores, but comments coming from the area,” he said. “I think we’re treating the people of North Dakota well up there and that’s what continues to grow business.”

Thus far, Famous Dave’s growth has predominantly come in the north, northwest and west. The company restaurants have primarily grown in the Mid-Atlantic, while many franchise partners have been spending a lot of time and energy in the Midwest.

It’s that Midwest activity by Famous Dave’s franchisees that catches Salamone’s eye.

“I know that all the activity is sort of stemming from the oil fields, but nonetheless, for them to invest millions of dollars in infrastructure as well as trying to provide jobs for the territory, it’s not just a fad,” Salamone said. “This is part of that community that’s continuing to grow, so we’re excited to be on the forefront of that.”