Features

Michael Medved – BBQ Holdings

Pulling a barbecue chain out of the fire

The most stressful 48 hours of Michael Medved’s professional life have given way to growth pains. Not only has his employer, Minnetonka, Minnesota-headquartered BBQ Holdings, survived the pandemic that shuttered so many competing eateries, its revenues have grown, its stock value has quadrupled, and its portfolio has expanded.

But it easily could have gone the other way, Medved tells Vanguard in July, recalling how on March 16, 2020, he huddled with the rest of the executive team for a couple days, to decide what to do with COVID-related shutdowns. It didn’t look good for the national restaurant company that had endured multiple management shakeups prior to new CEO Jeff Crivello bringing it stability in late 2017.

Michael Medved | Senior Vice President and Corporate Counsel | BBQ Holdings

Michael Medved | Senior Vice President and Corporate Counsel | BBQ Holdings

“During those two days I didn’t know if we’d survive as a business or if I’d even have a job,” recalls Medved, a veteran restaurant industry lawyer whom Crivello had hired as corporate counsel. “But we’ve had a renaissance.”

Medved can take his share of credit, his initial responsibilities including safety protocols, compliance with regulations of over 30 jurisdictions and the reworking of dozens of leases for the company’s four brands: Famous Dave’s, Clark Crew BBQ, Granite City Brewery and Chicago’s Original Real Urban Barbecue.

He was pleasantly surprised to find most landlords empathetic about the parent company’s plight, and being amendable to deferral or abatement agreements, or percentage reimbursements. Many of the restaurants having been fashioned with the realistic expectation of $2 million to $5 million in gross sales per location were only likely to bring in half of that during COVID-19.

“We didn’t want to go into the dark and neither did the landlords,” he says. “We also assisted the franchise owners. That’s one of the benefits of the franchise system: our ability to give best practices. We’ve come out of it a much stronger operation.”

Onboarding 2 more entities

In July, BBQ Holdings will acquire two more family-friendly but distressed casual dining chains, Village Inn and Bakers Square. Medved being the sounding board for acquisitions, he says each should complement rather than compete against the company’s four barbecue-and-brew brands.

“We’re looking at vertical integration of our business where we control our own supply chain,” he says. “We’re starting to kick the tires on something like that.”

Still a one-man legal team, Medved negotiated the purchase agreements to get the two chains and notes that human resources, which he also oversees, will increase to 4,000 employees with the addition of 1,200 Village Inn and Bakers Square employees.

The franchise disclosure document for Village Inn—a legal document presented to prospective buyers of franchises in the pre-sale disclosure process—will need his fine-tuning, and there’ll be more intellectual property to protect with the new trademarks and menu items.

And opportunities to leverage one operation to the benefit of another, Medved is quick to say. Pies, for example, are an ideal way to top off a barbecued meal, and Bakers Square carries a variety of such treats as well as cheesecake and carrot cake. Those pies may also be available at select retailers by year’s end.

The more brands under the BBQ Holdings umbrella, the more opportunity to capitalize on so-called ghost kitchens, in which meals for one chain are prepared for delivery in a different restaurant, Medved adds. Prior to COVID-19, the most popular chain—Famous Dave’s—was already doing 52 percent of its business through takeout. The pandemic likely to have changed consumer habits for the long term, Medved says Famous Dave’s should continue prospering wherever its meats are smoked and grilled.

Michael Medved | Senior Vice President and Corporate Counsel | BBQ Holdings

The takeout model also has BBQ Holdings targeting drive-thru and 3,000-square-foot facilities as prospective sites rather than those twice that size with more dining space. And just as the company’s marketing prowess appealed to a young clientele with the barbecue joints, Medved says it’ll breathe life into Village Inn and Bakers Square, each of which is due for a refresh.

More on his plate

Those newcomers might be joined by other chains.

“Our goal is to continue growing whether it’s by organic means, by corporate or franchised locations or by acquiring more brands,” Medved says. “Growth is the name of our game, and it’s been an exciting and exhilarating last three years.”

That may be an understatement, with the company acquiring at deep discount Granite City Brewery’s assets and Real Urban BBQ at COVID-19’s onset in March 2020. With business back at pre-pandemic levels, Crivello’s optimistic that BBQ Holdings is indeed a growth company.

Medved came into it well prepared, honing his financial acumen during his 18 years at Wells Fargo and attending the Mitchell Hamline School of Law from 2002 to 2006. Among his duties was helping Buffalo Wild Wings buy back its stores back from franchisees. Eventually he joined the law department as its international contracts manager from 2016 to 2018. When Inspire Brands acquired the company, he stayed for six months as its international counsel and then jumped to BBQ Holdings in August 2018.

Recent prosperity notwithstanding, he notes that BBQ Holdings isn’t immune from issues that face the restaurant industry. Staffing is a challenge as for whatever reason, restaurant workers everywhere are slow to return to the job. Equipment and raw materials can be slow to arrive where restaurants are being built or renovated.

But the executive team no longer is mulling whether its business model is sustainable. That question was put to rest in March 2020.

“We’re getting inquiries daily to grow through our franchise system,” says the married stepfather of two. “I’m blessed to be here. It’s really afforded me the opportunity to grow as an attorney.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Fall II 2021 Edition here.

Published on: September 21, 2021

regions:

categories:

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.

Testimonials

As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.
The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.

LATEST EDITION

Fall III 2021

READ NOW

GET VANGUARD IN YOUR INBOX.

  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.