When Paul Sundy opened the original Big Whiskey’s in Southwestern Missouri in 2006, he was seeking to create something he believed hadn’t been properly executed in his neck of the woods: A restaurant and bar with elevated food and drink that still felt approachable.
A decade after seeing nothing but success in Missouri, Sundy began franchising Big Whiskey’s, and the brand is now primed to grow in target markets inside the midwest, in the southeast, and beyond. It’s proven to be a concept that performs strongly in a variety of different areas, showing 40 percent growth in 2020 despite the pandemic.
Sundy loves comparing and contrasting his brand to others in the category. For example, Big Whiskey’s has an average ticket size of $23, or about $4 more than other brands in the bar and restaurant space.
“I think what really sets us apart is that we are a casual, simple concept that a family would want to go to,” Sundy says. “It’s just a wildly approachable restaurant concept where you get the family after a soccer game, but dad might come back when sports are on. Mom might come on a girl’s night out—you’ll find grandpa and grandma eating dinner here, too. Big Whiskey’s is a place for everybody.”
This slideshow will look at some of the key numbers that are attracting franchise partners to Big Whiskey’s, and will tell the story of what makes Big Whiskey’s a unique franchising opportunity.
Liquor and Beer Sales: 25.9 Percent
Sundy has deep roots in the industry as his grandfather owned a tavern in rural Missouri for 30 years. That helped Sundy develop an appreciation for what a restaurant and bar could be when properly executed. Now Big Whiskey’s does 25.9 percent of its sales on beer and liquor alone.
“What we’ve found through case studies and store visits is that any restaurant that doesn’t celebrate their bar product is missing the market,” Sundy says. “We really blow our competitors out of the market in that way.”
Big Whiskey’s EBITDAR: 21.8 Percent
Market Average EBITDAR: 16.8 Percent
Big Whiskey’s franchise owner Amaan Porbandarwala says that one of the reasons he was attracted to the brand in the first place was that there were restaurants and sports bars in Hoover, Alabama, but there wasn’t any concept that did both things really well. The residents of Hoover seem to agree with Porbandarwala’s assessment, as his first store is on pace to do $5.5 million in sales in 2021.
With sleek buildouts and over 30 televisions per unit, Porbandarwala says it’s the high quality food and beverage that becomes a differentiating factor for Big Whiskey’s.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Are you a restaurant or a sports bar?’” says Porbandarwala. “The great thing is that when we have the Alabama game on, we are obviously packed. We celebrate sports here. But because we also have great, quality food and quality drinks, we are busy even when sports aren’t on. It’s a great formula.”
Big Whiskey’s Average Ticket Size: $22.74
Market Average Ticket Size: $18.98
Something that Sundy says is indicative of the brand as a whole was Big Whiskey’s ability to pivot on a dime to off-premises ordering at the outset of the pandemic. Takeout now makes up between 17 and 25 percent of the brand’s growth. Next up? An app that will help build a loyalty subscriber base.
To him, both things speak to how much Big Whiskey’s values the guest experience, and he believes that begins with having a good line of communication between his office and each franchisee—they’ve got an app for that line of communication, too.
“The guest experience is such an important thing to us,” Sundy says. “One of the ways that we ensure everything is top notch is we have an internal communication pathway with a team that is dedicated to answer franchisee questions and franchisee needs. We aim to have simple brand continuity questions answered in real time so that the guest experience is really over-the-top good and it doesn’t make franchisees feel like they are on an island. We really want to partner with you and go above and beyond to meet everyone’s expectations—franchisees, employees, guests—everyone.”
Franchising Opportunities: Endless
For those hoping to grow the Big Whiskey’s brand, Porbandarwala says the training and ongoing support he has received has been top notch.
“They have a very good system in place for you to open a new location,” Porbandarwala says. “You have full support and training and one of the things the staff really enjoyed was that there was solid training pay which helped them understand that they are going to be taken care of not just once the restaurant opens but beforehand, too.
“But most of all, the best thing I can say about Big Whiskey’s is that they are really receptive to feedback. It’s not just ‘My way or the highway,’ they are true partners and want to help you where they can.”
Big Whiskey’s now has 14 units open across Missouri, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, with 7 more units in the development stages in places like Florida. Sundy says they are hoping to expand into other midwestern and southern markets, with a robust supply chain network via U.S. Foods that is built to scale.
“Ultimately, we want to grow where we can partner with the best people,” Sundy says. “We want to partner with people who are passionate about it and want to be a part of what we are building.”
For more on franchising with Big Whiskey’s, visit the brand’s franchising site.