The spirit and flavor of New Orleans are moving beyond the Louisiana borders, thanks to VooDoo BBQ & Grill.
The barbecue chain—which first opened its doors on St. Charles Avenue during Mardi Gras 2002—has signed a licensing agreement with Kerr Management to open eight new stores in the Carolinas, marking VooDoo’s first foray outside of Louisiana.
The first of eight locations is set to open in Greenville, South Carolina, and will launch before year's-end. Other markets included in the deal are Anderson, Spartanburg, Charleston, Rock Hill, and Columbia, South Carolina, as well as Asheville, North Carolina.
“The Carolinas is one of those regions of the country that are all very big on barbecue,” says CEO Tony Avila, noting that Texas and Memphis, Tennessee, are two other barbecue-loving areas.
“If you’ve traveled to any of those regions, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of barbecue there, and for us that’s not a detractor,” Avila says. “We feel like the folks that have grown up in those regions are accustomed to eating barbecue, and as long as the food is good, another really good barbecue option can be very well-received there.”
Avila says he knew very little about the Greenville market until the Kerrs brought it to his attention. “Once we looked into the market, we really like the demographic, we liked the layout,” he says. “Everything about the market we feel is a really good fit for our concept.”
Although the 12-store brand hasn’t ventured outside of its Louisiana home-base until now, it’s been considering the move for some time.
“We’ve long had intentions of moving beyond our local borders here, but our primary goal initially was to … continue to expand our own company restaurants as we franchised,” Avila says.
With its St. Charles Avenue location in a tourist-heavy area of the city, VooDoo has piqued the interest of many visitors over the years.
Avila says the restaurant’s increased marketing efforts have now started to “materialize into going beyond interest to actually speaking with legitimate prospects that are interested” in franchising.
Aside from the Carolinas deal, VooDoo has several other agreements in the works, including a five-license deal in Austin, Texas. “I’m almost comfortable enough to say that it’s far enough along, but it’s not quite there yet,” Avila says of the Austin agreement. He says the company doesn’t have “all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted, but we’re very, very close.”
The chain has already signed a contract for a store in Biloxi, Mississippi, and is actively examining other potential markets, such as the Washington, D.C./Virginia areas, Atlanta, and Florida.
“In the entire Southeast area, we’ve gotten lots of interest,” Avila says.
He also says that the company will probably see its store-count increase to 15 by the end of the year and, in a year and a half, will have another seven to 10 locations open.
“By that point, once you have several [restaurants] there, then you’re opening stores every month, every other month,” Avila says, “and it can really start to rapidly go from there.”
By Mary Avant