Florida-based casual barbecue chain Woody’s Bar-B-Q is overhauling its operations and planning for future growth with two fast-casual prototypes.

The veteran chain is now offering a 2,500–3,000-square-foot fast-casual model and 1,000–1,500-square-foot fast-casual express model to franchisees instead of the larger casual diners it previously offered.

“It gives us a greater opportunity to attract [franchisees] who we couldn’t attract if we were going into 5,000- or 6,000-square-foot restaurants like we’ve done in the past,” says Woody Mills, cofounder of Woody’s Bar-B-Q.

“Now with the smaller footprint, I think we can find some good folks who can afford to get into this concept.”

Start-up costs for the new fast-casual prototype will be around $284,000 for an existing location and around $640,000 for new construction. For the express prototype, start-up costs will be around $227,000 for existing locations and $397,000 for new construction.

Troy Taylor, director of franchise development for Woody’s, says the new prototypes are a “game changer” for the company and will be easier for franchisees to operate.

“When you’re bringing on franchisees, not every person you’re going to sell to is bringing six to 10 years of restaurant experience to the table,” Taylor says. “Many of these people are coming from all walks of life. So when you’re going for these large restaurants, you’re talking more start-up costs, you’re talking more staff; it’s a lot harder to manage and operate a very large restaurant.”

On top of lower start-up and build-out costs, the new prototypes will feature tighter operations and fewer employees. Leaders say the new prototypes will help the company focus more on catering and takeout, which have become increasingly popular.

Taylor says the new prototypes will also help the company enter new markets, and that the smaller footprints will make site selection much easier. He says franchisees have already expressed interested in opening a mix of the two new prototypes as a way to better saturate markets.

“Simply due to costs, over time, I think as you look over the next five years, you’re going to see a lot more of the express models,” he says.

By Sam Oches

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Design, Growth, News, Woody's Bar-B-Q