Fuddruckers is an American fast casual, franchised restaurant chain that specializes in hamburgers. As of 2011, Fuddruckers had 56 company-operated restaurants and 129 franchises across the United States with one in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, Dominican Republic, four in Puerto Rico and ten in Saudi Arabia. The company headquarters is in Houston, Texas.
Founding and growth
Fuddruckers was founded as Freddie Fuddruckers in 1979 by Philip J. Romano in San Antonio, Texas, in a location converted to a restaurant from an old bank. He started the chain because he thought that the « world needed a better hamburger. » The Fuddruckers concept was to offer large hamburgers in which the meat was ground on-site and buns were baked on the premises and hamburgers and other dishes were offered with « lots of fresh sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce and vats of cheese sauce. » In California, Fuddruckers competed at the high end of the fast food market against chains such as Flakey Jake’s, sometimes with head-to-head competitions in places such as Northridge, California. By 1988, there were 150 restaurants in the chain, according to a report in The New York Times. Romano left the chain in 1988 to found Romano’s Macaroni Grill. In an interview, Romano stated that « I just felt I had done all I could for the concept. »
Fuddruckers was purchased in November 1998 by Michael Cannon, and later it was purchased by Magic Brands. The restaurant sometimes made controversial decisions; for example, in 2010 it began enforcing a no-weapons policy, which insisted that patrons should not carry « visible pistols » unless they were security officials. Laws in some U.S. states allow people to carry guns visibly in public. Fuddruckers management had been concerned that the presence of armed patrons might deter unarmed ones from visiting, but the move caused controversy among pro-gun advocates who threatened to retaliate with boycotts of Fuddruckers restaurants.
In August 2014 Fuddruckers opened the first of its new stores called Fuddruckers Deluxe in Newport News, Virginia, a full-service sit down restaurant serving traditional and new menu items, with a wait staff, full bar and multiple TVs, although it does not offer different size burgers or a « produce and fixings bar » like its traditional restaurants.
Bankruptcy and ownership changes
The 2008 financial crisis hit the restaurant industry hard, including Fuddruckers. On April 22, 2010, the parent of Fuddruckers, Austin-based Magic Brands LLC, announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It originally planned to sell most of its assets, including Fuddruckers and the Koo Koo Roo brand eateries, to the Tavistock Group for $40 million. On the same day, the firm announced that 24 Fuddruckers restaurants would be closed.
On June 18, 2010, Tavistock was outbid by Luby’s for Fuddruckers’ assets at auction, with a $61 million winning bid. A second estimate was that the sale amount was for $63 million. Luby’s acquisition of Fuddruckers and Koo Koo Roo was finalized in 2010. During 2011, there were controversies with previous franchise owners regarding the use of the Fuddruckers brand name, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The chain offered the Original Fudds Burger in various sizes, from 1/3 pound, to 1/2 pound, to 2/3 pound, to 1 pound. The primary focus is on hamburgers, but entrees based on poultry and other alternatives were offered.
The firm in 2006 cooked up a publicity stunt. Foxwood executive sous chef, Scott Ferguson, and Mark Collins made one of the largest commercially available hamburgers — weighing 29.6 pounds and costing US $250 — for the Fuddruckers restaurant in the casino. The burger was 18.5 inches wide and 8 inches tall. According to two sources, this creation was the world’s largest commercially available burger in 2006. In 2008, there was a report that the world’s biggest burger title shifted to a sports bar in Michigan. The chain experimented with different types of burgers. For example, one restaurant offered an elk burger, but a food critic writing for Slate Magazine, visiting a restaurant in Washington, D.C., was disappointed with the taste and described it as looking « completely grey », and complained about the chain’s standards of consistency. In 2011, the firm brought back two hamburgers entitled The Southwest and the Swiss Melt as well as another entitled the Inferno Burger.
The firm has moved its headquarters location several times. Currently, the headquarters is the near northwest district of Houston, Texas. It has been there since the acquisition by Luby’s in 2010. From 2005 to 2010, Fuddruckers was headquartered in southwest Austin, Texas; before that, in One Corporate Place in Danvers, Massachusetts; before that, in Beverly, Massachusetts. When it shifted headquarters from the Boston area to Austin in 2005, it spent $1 million and laid off 30 employees which allowed the firm to operate more efficiently, according to chief financial officer Matt Pannek. Within six weeks of the move, the company hired 30 new employees for the Austin headquarters. By September 2005 the company employed 80 people in 16,000 square feet (1,500 m2) of space in two temporary offices in the Monterey Oaks Corporate Park in southwest Austin. By December 2005 the company planned to move into about 16,000 square feet (1,500 m2)-17,000 square feet (1,600 m2) of space in an adjacent building and turn one of the original Austin facilities into a training center and test kitchen. Pannek said that the central location of the headquarters allows the company to more easily communicate with its franchisees across the United States.
While some Fuddruckers restaurants are company-owned, the majority are owned by individual franchisees. In 2010, there were 135 franchisee-owned Fuddruckers around the United States. In 2011, Fuddruckers had 200 restaurants throughout North America, of which two-thirds were owned by small business owners and 59 were company-operated locations. Fuddruckers expanded outside of the United States and had branches in several Middle Eastern countries, with the first Middle Eastern location opening in 1994 in Saudi Arabia. Fuddruckers opened restaurants in Argentina in 1988; later, however, sales fell and Fuddruckers left the country. In 2013, Fuddruckers opened its first restaurant in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In 2014 Fuddruckers opened its first restaurant in Varese (Lombardy), being the company’s first location in Europe.