(Ambrosio’s note: This is one of the most comprehensive interviews I’ve done on Franchise Chatter. Chad Tramuta, Senior Director of Franchise Development for VooDoo BBQ & Grill, is such a generous and engaging subject. He really took the time to explain the different aspects of the VooDoo BBQ business. Thank you, Chad!
Like most people, I love BBQ and I love New Orleans cuisine, so the combination of these two distinct categories in one restaurant concept is just mouth watering. I can’t wait for them to start expanding to cities I frequent, so that I may finally get to enjoy their unique take on BBQ.)
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you tell us the story behind the creation of VooDoo BBQ & Grill?
Chad Tramuta (CT): VooDoo BBQ & Grill is the culmination of a vision two college roommates shared while attending Louisiana State University. Tony Avila (CEO) grew up in New Orleans with a passion for great food and an eternal love for his city, while Dino Arvanetes (COO) grew up in the restaurant industry learning from some of the best. After college, Tony went on to become a successful CPA and it wasn’t until years later when he and Dino decided to make their dreams a reality by starting their very own restaurant concept.
Since New Orleans had award winning restaurants on every corner, they knew that they would have to find the right niche to become successful in such a competitive market. After months of tireless research, they recognized a void and decided to start the arduous task of establishing a new southern style of BBQ. As they say, the rest is history!
We are a New Orleans fast casual restaurant franchise that has been serving up our truly unique “New Orleans Style” spin on great barbecue since 2002 when we opened our first restaurant on historic St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras Day.
Our award-winning competition style barbecue is a symbol of our love for our culture and deep rooted culinary history. Being that we take pride in referring to ourselves as a “New Orleans Original”, there is an expectation we must uphold and our food has to be great!
When you walk into a VooDoo BBQ, you should expect a fun, laid back atmosphere with great food, drinks, music and to be taken care of like a guest in our home. It’s in our name, Come Taste Our Magic!
FC: For those unfamiliar, please tell us about your food? What makes VooDoo BBQ & Grill different from your competitors in the BBQ category? What are some of your strengths over your competition?
CT: Louisiana and especially New Orleans is known all over the world for its culture and award winning food and we are excited to carry this tradition into the BBQ arena. Our “New Orleans Style BBQ” has added a unique twist on the traditional industry that starts with our slow-smoked meats and carries through to our guests dining experiences.
Our premium quality Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork, Louisiana Cajun Sausage, Chicken and Ribs are smoked over Louisiana Pecan and Oak woods for up to 18 hours, then blended with Cajun, Creole and Caribbean spices to create the magical flavor of “New Orleans Style BBQ” which is unique to VooDoo BBQ.
What really sets our food apart in the BBQ industry is not only our commitment to our proteins but our equal commitment to phenomenal side items. At VooDoo BBQ, we don’t look at our side items as window dressing. Our Corn Pudding, “Gris Gris” Greens and Sweet Potato Soufflé are just a few of the signature side items that keep our guests coming back for more.
Our enormous overstuffed potatoes, entrée salads, burgers, po-boy sandwiches and desserts such as our famous New Orleans style Bread Pudding provide a complete menu selection for everyone, not just the BBQ enthusiast. All this and more are available at a very attractive price point for our guests.
Most important, we serve true competition style BBQ. This means the unique flavors of our meats are so mouth-watering they are prepared and served to our guests free of any sauces. It’s standard practice to see BBQ concepts drown their meats in sauce in an effort to mask its true taste. We believe our guests should have the option “to sauce or not to sauce.” This is why our guests get to choose from our three signature sauces which represent different geographical preferences.
FC: Who is your target customer? How big is the market for your restaurants?
CT: Historically, BBQ concepts have all shared similar core customers which is usually a 30 year old to 45 year old male. We believe our array of menu items allows us to appeal to a much wider customer base. We have menu items for every member of the family to enjoy and to keep them coming back for more.
Our vision for VooDoo BBQ & Grill is to become the largest and first nationally received fast casual BBQ concept. Most BBQ concepts are regionalized, which tends to limit their potential for viable markets. We believe there’s a high national demand for BBQ and especially concepts that take great pride in food quality and taste while being affordable and convenient.
Not to mention, our guests love our ambiance and fun restaurant culture allowing them to escape to New Orleans for lunch. It’s reasons like these we are confident our business model will work in most markets all across the U.S.
FC: Has the current economic environment affected your business in any way? If so, please explain.
CT: I believe most, if not all, restaurant concepts have been affected in some way by the current economic climate. The rise in food cost is one that all restaurant franchisors have been keeping their eyes on. Fortunately, this hasn’t affected us much and we are still able to offer a high quality meal in a timely fashion for the same $10 – $12 average ticket price.
From a development standpoint, the economy has actually resulted in more franchising interest for us as many professionals are now looking to get out of corporate America and become their own boss.
FC: Can you describe the ideal franchisee for a VooDoo BBQ & Grill restaurant?
CT: Obviously all prospective franchisees must be properly capitalized and willing to dedicate most, if not all, of their time to the business. Our ideal franchisee is someone with prior franchising, preferably restaurant, experience with an extensive background in management and operations.
With that being said, we can also appreciate the hunger and the determination to become successful which many first time entrepreneurs tend to display. Overall, we typically look for prospective franchisees who display a willingness to learn with passion and an unwavering dedication towards success.
To read part 2 of my exclusive interview with Chad Tramuta, please click here.