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Franchise watch: Walk-On’s Sports Bistreux gains star player status

Franchise watch: Walk-On’s Sports Bistreux gains star player status

The leading FSR is creating a league of its own.

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Then Brandon Landry, founder of Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux, stepped off the basketball court in 2001, he realized he couldn’t live without key gameday elements that made his experience as a walk-on athlete for Louisiana State University unforgettable.

From the cities he was able to see to the time-intensive travel schedule, it gave him the opportunity to eat and drink at some of the best eateries across the country, which, in turn, made him realize the lack of restaurant or sports bar options back home in Baton Rouge. The leading FSR is creating a league of its own

The idea for Walk-On’s started to take shape 35,000 feet up in the air as Landry and a fellow teammate sketched out their vision for a floor plan on the back of a napkin. Despite having little business experience and even less financial backing, Landry incorporated the traits he learned as a walk-on athlete – hard work, dedication, and commitment to excellence – into his vision of launching the Walk-On’s restaurant concept that would grow into a thriving franchise system.

In 2003, the business idea turned into a reality, with the first Walk-On’s location opening in the shadows of LSU’s Tiger stadium. In 2012, ESPN announced the restaurant as the number one sports bar in America. The business quickly took off, now boasting 42 locations across nine states with another 150 in various stages of development – setting the platform for nationwide expansion.

PLAYBOOK FOR GROWTH

Walk-On’s recently announced a growth equity investment from private equity firm, 10 Point Capital. The investment will enable Walk-On’s to achieve its goal of opening 150 new locations over the next five years.

In 2020, the brand celebrated openings in Texas, Florida, and Tennessee, and signed a three-unit deal in Mississippi among others. Recently, Walk-On’s was named one of the five fastest-growing emerging brands by FSR Magazine’s FSR 50. These recent agreements and accomplishments confirm rapid expansion plans as Walk- On’s continues to target strategic franchise development in key markets throughout the Southeast, Midwest, and beyond.

Walk-On’s remains committed to expanding at a pace where it can experience valuable growth, because at a certain level, too many restaurants per year could result in an incongruence between quantity and quality. 10 Point Capital understands this importance, and with its help, Walk-On’s long-term objectives become more sustainable.

“Whether we executed the transaction with 10 Point Capital or not, we were going to open 22 to 25 next year and then probably the same in 2022, but where they really help us is in organizing our resources to maximize these goals, alongside looking at opportunities for different types of growth - they’re bringing a high level of expertise to the table,” says Scott Taylor, president and COO of Walk- On’s. “Our team is committed to the long game – growing strategically with the right franchise partners who are a cultural fit.”

A WINNING CULTURE

“I truly believe the best leaders use culture to drive unprecedented results,” says Landry. “The Walk- On’s mentality says a lot about how we define our culture – it is our footprint, how we operate our company, and it’s the type of partners we seek to grow with.”

Walk-On’s has established a culture from the top-down that is shared and embraced by the entire franchise system – from the leadership team to franchisees, general managers, and team members. It is a culture that embodies the mentality of a walk-on: team before self, name on the front of the jersey not the back, to know that by putting in the work that the results will come.

“We have a winning culture and the best quality product in the industry,” says Landry. “When these factors come together, we become an unstoppable force.”

THE SECRET RECIPE

It became clear early on that Walk-On’s didn’t fit neatly into the category of a bar, nor did it fit the mold of a traditional restaurant – which is why the brand was inspired to coin its own category: Sports Bistreaux. Capturing the true essence of the Walk-On’s brand, Sports Bistreaux is at the intersection of great sports and even better food, a truly unique and one-of-a-kind concept.

As Walk-On’s debuts in new markets, it brings with it a taste of Louisiana and its southern hospitality. Dishes are made from scratch using fresh ingredients to bring its savory cuisine to life. Chef Mike Turner brings more than two decades of experience to the brand and is at the forefront of menu innovation – leading the team to a 2017 National Restaurant News Menu Masters Award.

“We have a winning culture and the best quality product in the industry. When these factors come together, we become an unstoppable force”

He has mastered the art of incorporating authentic Louisiana flavor across the menu and drove changes that have increased overall food quality and fashioned Walk-On’s restaurant into a truly “from scratch” kitchen as team members bring the game-day experience to life.

PANDEMIC PIVOTS FOR SUCCESS

When the pandemic struck, Walk-On’s was quick to pivot and support its franchisees and the communities it serves.

For franchisees, Walk-On’s temporarily suspended its royalty payments, with the suggestion that owners pour those funds into homegrown efforts to support their team members. It also retained all its managers to preserve company culture and have a foundation set for post-pandemic efforts. Meanwhile, the brand adapted its business operations to offer Curbside ‘To-Geaux’ and third-party delivery while rolling out all-new family value meals, ‘take & bake’ options, grocery to-geaux, and more to successfully claw back at sales.

Notably, Walk-On’s joined forces with Furlough Kitchen to debut Furlough Kitchen by Walk-On’s, a non-profit organization that provides furloughed hospitality workers free meals, no matter their former employer. The movement served over 30,000 meals with more than 20 activations across five states.

All of these redirections and achievements were reinforced when the concept was awarded the #1 Top New Franchise Concept from Entrepreneur Magazine in May of 2020.

“All of our success wouldn’t mean anything without our dedicated network of franchisees and our loyal fans who continue to show up and support us,” said Landry. “It has been extremely humbling to see and I can’t wait to continue growing our team with those who embody the Walk-On’s mentality.”

AT A GLANCE

Established: 2003

Number of franchised outlets: 40

Locations of units: 44

Average unit volume: $4,911,952

Investment range: $1,214,000 - $4,033,700

Minimum required capital: $400,000 liquid, $1.3m net worth

Contact: Kelly Parker (director of franchise sales and real estate) Email: Kelly.parker@walk-ons.com; Phone: 225-330-4533

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