Bar Louie has been around since 1990, but the franchisor believes it has never had tailwinds quite like it does now.
“We view ourselves as mavericks in the industry,” says Tom Fricke, who for over four years has been CEO of the brand that lays claim to coining the term ‘Gastrobar.’ “When I came on board at Bar Louie, what I saw was a business with a world-class beverage program and a magical guest experience. When one of our bars is full, and the music is playing, and you’re with your friends—there’s really nothing like it.”
Over the past few years, Fricke and his team have been hard at work focusing on three main areas where it felt the brand could improve. Fricke wanted to see more overall consistency in the guest experience. He also wanted to roll out a comprehensive digital marketing strategy and to create a food menu that would match Bar Louie’s renowned drinks menu in terms of quality and innovation.
The early results have been overwhelmingly positive, with a recently opened location in Granger, Indiana, projected to cross $6 million in sales in 2021. Three other locations that opened prior to or during the pandemic have been similarly successful, and Fricke thinks that has a lot to do with sleek and modern buildouts, as well as a new food menu that’s receiving rave reviews.
The menu was remade by industry veteran and Wolfgang Puck alum Steve Madonna, who says the driving force behind his innovation was creating a menu that would be popular with any type of diner or bar goer.
Menu favorites that might reflect the “maverick” in the brand include Fried Pickles, a Meatloaf Grilled Cheese, and signature Voodoo Pasta. Other more standard menu items range from wings and burgers to flatbread pizzas. The brand has also started rolling out regional menu items across its national footprint and created a virtual kitchen called Macs & Stacks featuring grilled cheeses and mac and cheeses.
“Nowadays in our space, you have to have food that matches your bar menu and vice versa—you can’t have one without the other,” Madonna says. “I think that’s really helped us provide the experience we are trying to provide, where we have a little something for everyone.”
And now Bar Louie is seeking to grow with franchisees wanting to open up multiple locations. There are wide swaths of white space that the brand is targeting, and Fricke says the company is open to having conversations with groups in many areas across the U.S.
“One of the things potential franchisees should know about us is that we have several bars that are corporately owned that we use to test out things, like menu changes and new tech initiatives,” Fricke says. “That means when we go to them asking for a change in the way we operate, we can demonstrate to them that it’s already worked. And, right now, things are moving along really nicely—it’s a great time to be investing in Bar Louie.”
For more on franchising with Bar Louie, visit barlouie.com/franchise.