The restaurant chain has quickly grown to 14 locations from the 11 Armenti and Gabauer mentioned during their Shark Tank pitch. To support the expansion, they’re committed to investing and promoting employees internally. Many franchisees of Fat Shack started on its crew. In the chain’s Fort Worth location alone, one of the partners/co-owners began as a kitchen worker in Fort Collins.
“We believe in promoting the talent. If you come in, start at the bottom, and you're a phenomenal worker with great work ethic, you ... could open up your own store and actually become your own boss,” Gabauer says. “Not just a manager in the big restaurant corporation.”
The restaurant’s commitment to helping the “grinders” comes from Armenti’s own experiences as an entrepreneur. The idea came to him through exposure of fat sandwiches growing up in New Jersey. The late-night staple was typically served at local diners or food trucks called “grease trucks,” but he thought that the fat sandwich could thrive beyond those settings. He started Fat Shack as a quick-service concept with the goal of exposing everyone to the Garden City classic.
Fat Shack started as a deal between Armenti and a bagel shop, which allowed him to use the store after hours. Armenti’s unorthodox setup allowed him to start his business for less than $5,000. When he saw potential in Fat Shack’s future, he realized he needed an organized partner to balance his disorganized personality. Armenti knew that Gabauer was perfect for the team after becoming friends in college.
“Kevin wants nothing to do with making this honey mustard I'm about to make, or cleaning this milkshake machine I've got to clean here. I want nothing to do with dealing with the city when it comes time to get permits and doing all that kind of stuff,” Armenti says.
It’s easy to see the pair’s complementary relationship throughout their Shark Tank pitch. The duo took turns as Armenti focused on the idea while Gabauer fielded logistical questions.
The Fat Shack team was also prepared to swim with the Sharks given their extensive knowledge of the show. Armenti was an enthusiastic fan from day one.
"You watch Shark Tank each week and you see what businesses are out there. What did they do wrong? What did Mr. Wonderful [O’Leary] chew them out for this week?” Armenti says. “We kind of learned through other people's mistakes.”