Famous Dave's is looking again to its founder, Dave Anderson, to jump-start its restaurants.
The Minnetonka-based barbecue company on Thursday unveiled a new menu and refreshed, brighter interior in its Coon Rapids location, a concept that may be rolled out to other locations.
There's a bar in the middle of the restaurant, and 15 TVs surrounding it as well as throughout the dining room. The company slogan, "America's Best Ribs," is also up in marquee lights.
"We really wanted to bring energy to the environment," said Geo Concepcion, chief operating officer of Famous Dave's. "We've done refreshes in the past, but we wanted a drastically different 'wow factor' this time."
The new menu features 23 new items such as Hillbilly Hubcaps (Cajun-seasoned fried jalapeño slices), Burnt Buttz (smoked pork in blackberry barbecue sauce), jambalaya, soup, a revamped chicken-wings recipe, chicken and waffles, and a year-round Thanksgiving turkey meal with sweet potatoes, stuffing and cranberries.
The new menus will also be more regional as different areas of the country can showcase dishes specific to their regions, such as a tri-tip steak served in some California locations. A new value menu features smaller portions at lower price points.
Anderson, who started Famous Dave's in 1994, ran the company until 2003 when he was appointed to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs by President George W. Bush.
He returned in 2015 as a consultant as the company endured a period of declining sales, multiple changes in leadership and misfired strategies for its menu and marketing.
Famous Dave's has been tinkering with minor changes to its menu and look for several years during a broader slide in the casual dining sector. In 2016, it remodeled the Maple Grove and Bloomington locations. It has continued to expand its bar menu and added space for takeout orders. With the success of takeout and delivery, the company is also exploring delivery-only locations that will be around 500 square feet in size, about one-tenth the size of existing restaurants.
Anderson himself went through a makeover, dressed in black and a fedora for publicity shots two years ago. More recent photos show him in a straw hat and a casual madras shirt.
Last year, the company started selling off its corporate-owned stores to franchisees. It now has about 150 locations, down from more than 170 a year ago.
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633