Bar Louie, the brand that lays claim to coining the term “Gastrobar,” is proud of the fact that each of its 70+ locations have its own unique vibe. No layout is the same, and food and beverage menus feature certain regional items that help embed the brand in its local community.
Chase Oswald owns a Bar Louie location in Evansville, Indiana, and reports that his location has indeed become a fan favorite in the Evansville community over the years. Local patrons love that they can enjoy local brews on tap or sip a craft cocktail and chow down on wings, burgers, flatbread pizzas, or unique bites like a Meatloaf Grilled Cheese. Because the Evansville location is located within the city’s hotel district, guests coming through the city like to visit and see what makes Evansville, and Bar Louie, a great place to be.
“We didn’t have a martini bar in town at the time and we felt like Bar Louie would be a great fit,” Oswald says. “The location opened in 2009 and it was like gangbusters—such an exciting concept for our town. For 13 years now, it’s been a staple in the community, where people come to celebrate, or unwind.”
While business has always been strong at the Evansville location, it dipped down a bit prior to the pandemic. Oswald says the brand needed some new life breathed into it, and that’s exactly what it got when new leadership onboarded in 2017. Sales have since bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, and then some. The Evansville’s location’s sales are up 15 percent over where they were last year, and outpacing 2019. New locations, including one in Granger, Indiana, are recording over $6 million in sales, while the brand’s overall AUV is a robust $3 million.
The momentum behind Bar Louie is owed to a few different changes that have taken place during the rebrand. Guests are clearly buying into a menu revamp that was overseen by the SVP of Food and Beverage Steve Madonna, a Wolfgang Puck alum, who was hired with the intention of building a food menu that matched the cocktail menu’s reputation of being world class. Madonna did that and more: He also oversaw the rollout of a virtual brand, Macs & Stacks—featuring creative plays on grilled cheese and mac and cheese.
“Steve has done such an incredible job,” Oswald says. “There’s definitely been an uptick in the quality of the menu. We are and always have been a scratch kitchen, and there’s a lot that goes into training employees. With Chef Madonna, there’s also a heightened emphasis on the training component for menu rollouts, which has been a positive change with current labor challenges in the industry.”
Bar Louie has always worked on building a reputation for delivering a guest experience that is above and beyond, and recent brand reimaging efforts have sought to accentuate that. For example, each new store has a private dining room that can be reserved for event functions. The brand has also worked with stores to optimize hours that keep staff engaged and capitalize on the most profitable dayparts. Oswald says steps like these—along with a dedicated franchisee support team, the new food menu, and booming sales—have led to the best franchisor-franchisee relationship that he can remember during his 13-year tenure as a franchisee at Bar Louie.
“Truly, the franchisee support is as good as it’s ever been,” Oswald says. “The brand is moving in a very positive direction, proven by the sales reports we see on a daily and weekly basis. We get one-on-one reviews on how we’re doing, and we also get to see the reviews and sales of other locations.”
“I would tell anybody, 100 percent, this is a brand to franchise with,” Oswald says. “If you’re looking for a gastrobar concept that you can build with your own unique regional flair and grow it to the moon, this is the one. The time is now.”
For more on franchising with Bar Louie, visit the company’s website.