When New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a Purdue University scholarship athlete, dined there and loved it, he contacted Landry, invested in it, and joined Walk-On’s as a partner. The NFL’s all-time passing yards leader makes occasional promotional appearances when time permits.
In a previous interview, Landry said, “We’ve broken the mold of being a traditional sports bar. Our guests are coming in to eat first.”
Asked whether Walk-On’s plans are too ambitious, Joe Caruso, partner in Franchise Info, a franchising consulting firm, replied, “It’s a blend of aspiration and reality.” But he pointed out, in the last three years, it has generated steady, moderate growth, adding three outlets, then six, and then eight restaurants annually.
But when chains publish reports of opening 30 locations soon and 150 in the next few years, Caruso becomes skeptical. “Franchises love to put out numbers that are exciting to make it sound like an attractive investment to get more franchisees,” he says. Often they don’t live up to expectations.
Caruso also notes that the sports bar segment is a very “crowded space” that includes growing chains such as Twin Peaks and Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar. The good thing about Walk-On’s is their volumes are higher than the $4 million average store rate of many of its competitors, he says.
In order to grow at a pace of 30 new locations in a year, Walk-On’s would require “talent and capital. You need someone who understands casual dining and the sports bar business at a unit level and someone with financial experience to help with development and securing the right locations at the right cost,” Caruso says
Despite Walk-On’s creating a career development plan for its employees, Caruso says, it will only succeed for about the first three locations before the talent base thins out. Hence it could hire a savvy vice president of operations who knows how to recruit the right management talent and sustain the pipeline. If not, problems arise when restaurant management can’t sustain the growth, he says.