See more of the story

Reviewing results from a quarter riddled with both restrictions and negative economic consequences from the coronavirus pandemic, the chief executive of Famous Dave’s found reasons for some optimism.

“Famous Dave’s has fared somewhat better than other casual-dining competitors,” said Jeff Crivello, CEO of BBQ Holdings, which owns Famous Dave’s. “Famous Dave’s has the ability to survive the pandemic. We’re using it to test a lot of business models, converting a handful of full-service restaurants to counter service. A total of 11 have now been converted, including some in the Twin Cities.”

Sales at company-owned Famous Dave’s fell 23% for the quarter ended June 28, the company said. For franchised-own restaurants, the decrease was 31%.

The bright spot for Famous Dave’s was to-go sales, which more than doubled at company-owned stores.

“We’ve spent three years perfecting the off-premise concept at Famous Dave’s so it’s no surprise that to-go sales have been up 50% during that time while Granite City had a 0% increase,” Crivello said.

BBQ Holdings also owns Granite City Food & Brewery, which fared about average for restaurant chains during the second quarter, he said.

The Granite City chain, whose restaurants are all company-owned, saw sales decrease 65% compared with the second quarter last year.

BBQ Holdings ended the quarter with a net loss of $6.3 million, or 68 cents a share. In the same period last year, the company made $1.04 million, or 11 cents a share.

Crivello noted that Granite City — whose offices have moved from Bloomington into Famous Dave’s headquarters in Minnetonka — did see improvement over the quarter.

Sales in April were $1 million; in June, they were $3.4 million as dining restrictions eased.

BBQ Holdings, formed last year as a holding company for Famous Dave’s with the idea of adding more, closed in March on Granite City and its 18 locations, with a final price of $3.65 million.

The company also co-owns Clark Crew BBQ in Oklahoma City and owns Real Urban in Chicago.

BBQ recently entered into franchise agreements to offer Famous Dave’s food via delivery and takeout in two California Johnny Carino’s locations and a co-branding franchise agreement at Texas T-Bone Steakhouse in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Crivello said that one corporate-owned Famous Dave’s in New Jersey closed since the pandemic began.

With the four brands — Famous Dave’s, Granite City, Clark Crew and Real Famous BBQ — the company now has 145 restaurant locations in 33 states and three countries.

BBQ Holdings received $13 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans after COVID-19 hit. Famous Dave’s received $7.2 million and Granite City received $5.8 million. Crivello expects the loan to become a grant after the company meets the government requirements by the Oct. 24 deadline.

The second-quarter results were released after the market closed. BBQ Holdings’ shares closed Wednesday at $3.20. They are down 31% year-to-date.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633