Although the year 2021 is deserving of many adjectives, SPB Hospitality CEO Jim Mazany chooses to describe the performance of Logan’s Roadhouse as an “industry-leading” turnaround.
Mazany’s choice of words is far from hyperbole. The roughly 140-unit steakhouse chain experienced 45 consecutive weeks above 2019 sales, and experienced 35 percent growth over 2020 and a 20 percent increase compared to 2019.
“The brand has had a really, really strong resurgence in the steak category,” Mazany says.
The success came a year after CraftWorks—the former and now defunct parent of Logan’s, Old Chicago and several other brands—declared bankruptcy and shuttered 37 underperforming locations. The court proceedings coincided with the start of the COVID pandemic, which resulted in all 261 company-run stores closing and thousands of employees being let go.
Then in May 2020, Fortress Investment Group bought the restaurants for $93 million and formed SPB Hospitality. A few months later, Mazany was appointed to lead the refreshed group, which also includes Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants, Big River Grille & Brewing Works, ChopHouse & Brewery, A1A Ale Works, Ragtime Tavern Seafood & Grill, Seven Bridges Grille & Brewery, and Sing Sing, a Big-Bang dueling pianos concept.
Prior to Craftworks, Logan’s filed bankruptcy in August 2016 and shut down 18 stores.
Mazany owes much of Logan’s recent success to a menu redesign. The first part of this involved simplification, or focusing on items with high customer satisfaction scores and better kitchen execution levels and deleting items with moderate trial. For instance, in June, the chain announced the addition of waffle fries. A month later, it revealed upgrades to its made-from-scratch buns on half-pound steakburgers and sandwiches and added Southern Fried Catfish—U.S. farm-raised catfish fillets covered in cornmeal breading and served with tartar sauce—to its list of options.
The other part has been enhancing the value proposition, which the chain accomplished with virtual brands, new menu items, and “very minimal” price increases. In little more than a year, SPB Hospitality has rolled out ghost concepts Twisted Tenders, Roadies, Logan’s on the Road, OC on the Go (Old Chicago), and Ember Smoked BBQ. Carryout and delivery sales account for more than 20 percent of sales at the steakhouse.
In March, Logan’s launched its Bayside Burger ($10.99 starting price) and Meatloaf Sliders ($9.99 starting price), and in November, the steakhouse added a $9.99 Party Pack comprising six made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls.
“Having the ability to have a 6-ounce sirloin steak that’s in the $11 price range, I think gives the consumer that opportunity to have that big night out with a great salad and a choice of sides and the basket of rolls and butter,” Mazany says.
To better engage guests and communicate these menu changes, Logan’s launched a new loyalty program and app in which customers can pay directly from their mobile device and pick up food via curbside or takeout. Each dollar spent represents a point, and with 100, guests can unlock a $5 discount on orders $20 or more.
For Logan’s, boosting and legitimizing its brand also meant joining forces with the best partners, including an NIL deal with star Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who won the Heisman Trophy (nation’s best college player) and led his team to the College Football Playoff National Title Game. Through the sponsorship, Young promotes Logan’s on social media, as well as on-air radio spots for local stations.
Young also makes repeated visits to the Logan’s near Alabama’s campus with his hungry offensive linemen.
“The great thing about anything dealing with sports, people are typically pretty superstitious,” Mazany says. “So once they started winning and doing as well as they did, they were coming in the same Wednesday with the offensive line, week after week, enjoying the same items and having a great time. So we’re honored to be involved in the partnership, and we found that it’s been very reciprocal and positive on both sides.”
New prototypes are breathing life into the 31-year-old brand, as well. Later in 2022, Logan’s plans to debut a location in Fort Myers, Florida, which will be slightly smaller than previous restaurants that typically go up to about 8,000 square feet depending on market density. The prototype will feature new seating modules to better fit consumers’ needs and a private dining room to capture celebratory occasions.
In addition to that ground-up store, Logan’s remodeled a flagship restaurant in Houston with real mesquite wood, signage that honors the chain’s made-from-scratch rolls, oversized beer can flags and license plate artwork, and homages to Texas, such as longhorn wall décor and neon Texas-themed bar signs. The announcement came not too long after SPB decided to move its headquarters from Nashville to Houston.
“The fact that we use mesquite firewood for all of our steak cooking, the fact that our yeast rolls are made from scratch each day in house, and then all of our salads and dressings and steak cuts are all of the highest quality—we really lean into that in how we pay that off in the way that the remodel itself looks,” Mazany says. “It’s a come-as-you-are, comfortable, relaxed feel that you get when you come into Logan’s, and our consumers really enjoyed it.”
Logan’s plans to remodel the entire system in the next four years, which Mazany admits will be a “pretty challenging process.” More new stores are on the horizon, too; the steakhouse plans to open 10 this year, all company-owned.
“We’ve had great success, and we really like the idea of owning the company, owning the system, and being able to grow currently with company restaurants,” Mazany says. “We do have a couple of franchisees that are in our system that make up about 25-30 restaurants, and we support those franchisees. And we partner with them on the brand. But on the current horizon, we’re not looking to franchise additional stores. The economics currently and the performance of the brand, it’s a much better financial investment for us to invest in company restaurants.”
Logan’s isn’t the only growth-ready brand in SPB’s portfolio. The 83-unit Old Chicago is aiming for five openings in the coming year, comprising a mixture of franchise and company-run locations. SPB also made a splash in the M&A market in 2021 with its $220 million purchase of fine-dining concept J. Alexander’s. The strategy is to open another five of those restaurants across 2022 and 2023.
The company will remain active in the M&A space and seek category-leading brands with strong consumer affinity and good economics, like many others did last year, such as FAT Brands purchasing Twin Peaks, and Famous Dave’s parent BBQ Holdings buying Village Inn, Bakers Square, and Tahoe Joe’s Steakhouse.
A host of chains also decided to go public in what proved to be the hottest restaurant IPO market seen in years. Krispy Kreme, Dutch Bros Coffee, First Watch, Sweetgreen, and Portillo’s reached the stock market, and Panera Brands, MOD Pizza, and Fogo de Chão are planning to join them.
Mazany doesn’t know if that move is in the cards for SPB and Logan’s just yet, but he is confident about the work that’s been done so far.
“I think we really just want to build a great company from the ground up, and I think that the important part of any of that story would really be about the company itself and what it stands for and then what it’s going to be into the future,” Mazany says. “So we’re in the process of putting that foundation in place, and so far so good. I mean it’s been a very good year for us, and we’re very excited about the year that’s coming up.”