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Exclusive: Dave Anderson on Returning to Famous Dave’s

Famous Dave's founder Dave Anderson is rejoining the company as a consultant.

Earlier this week, we brought you the story about “Famous Dave” Anderson rejoining his namesake company, Famous Dave’s. Now we’ve got Anderson’s thoughts on choosing to return to the brand he founded in 1994 and left in 2014, as well as his plans for the fast-casual Jimmie’s Old Southern BBQ Smokehouse he founded last spring.

Acknowledging that leaving the Minnetonka-based company was “a very difficult, emotional thing for me,” Anderson said he walked away because of multiple disagreements over the direction of the company. In our recent cover story on the topic, he bemoaned the negative influence of Wall Street on the casual barbecue brand, which has struggled mightily in recent years.

“The company has suffered for it, and then sometime this summer they started saying, ‘Dave, we need you back,’” he said. “For the longest time, I said I was not interested and I had moved on, not that I wished them any ill will; I just had moved on and then recently they’ve continued to reach out to me. Finally, after several franchise partners came to me with a plea, I said I would only consider it if some non-negotiables were met.”

Without citing said non-negotiables, Anderson said his demands were met, and that he has returned to the company not as an employee but as a consultant to help the company regain its traction in the market.

Aside from helping rescue Famous Dave’s, he added that part of his motivation includes solidifying his legacy as the founder of the company that made him famous.

“Me coming back allows me to right the ship for my legacy … with the company I founded,” he said. “It wasn’t the right way to go, so this allows me to leave at some point in the future on my own terms.”

Asked about the most immediate priorities for the brand, Anderson said the first job is “getting back to what Famous Dave’s stood for, which was being a fun family place to eat that’s affordable, and getting back to the best recipes possible using the best ingredients made from scratch.”

Having just returned from the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tennessee, Anderson said he also hopes to reintroduce the brand to the wider barbecue community, which he sees as growing in cache, participation and dollars on the line for barbecue competitions.

“That’s what made Famous Dave’s go in the first place is that we were the real deal,” he said. “I bring the authenticity back to Famous Dave’s, so my goal is to really get the food back to where you could count on it being really good barbecue, and then also having the vision of what Famous Dave’s needs to become to continue being relevant to the ever-expanding and explosive world of barbecue.”

As he prepares to open his second Jimmie’s location in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, this fall, Anderson said his plans for his new fast-casual brand have not changed, and that it’s a totally different concept that won’t compete with Famous Dave’s.

“I think there’s a lot I can do to help Famous Dave’s get going again, but that doesn’t keep me from going forward with our plans with Jimmie’s,” he said. “What we [at Jimmie’s] offer is convenience with fresh smoked meats, everything made fresh, and a format where you can get in, dig in, and then you’re happy.”

Anderson said Famous Dave’s would not be rebuilding its flagship, original location in Hayward, Wisconsin, which burned to the ground last fall. Instead, he said, a new concept may open there that takes advantage of its lakeside location near the popular vacation town.

As for what’s next for Jimmie’s beyond Rice Lake, Anderson said he expects to open his third location elsewhere in Wisconsin or in a suburb of the Twin Cities. 

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