In this exclusive Q&A, we get to learn about Lumberjacks Restaurant from its VP of Franchise Development, Bob Kirshner.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What is Lumberjacks?
Bob Kirshner (BK): Lumberjacks is a full service diner that serves made-from-scratch large portions of breakfast, lunch and dinner in a log cabin-themed setting. Recognized as the place “Where the Big Boys Eat,” we deliver generous servings of family-style meals at affordable prices and serve breakfast all day.
Our customers get the complete lumberjack experience, with restaurants featuring ax handles welcoming guests on the front doors and furniture of juniper wood and blue pine.
FC: How did the business get started?
BK: In 2004, Lumberjacks’ founder Jeff Garrett bought a struggling Lyon’s Restaurant in Redding, Calif., that had filed for bankruptcy twice. When the agreement requiring him to operate as Lyon’s expired, Garrett converted the restaurant to suit his vision of a full-service log cabin-themed diner.
Garrett, familiar with the lumberjack culture, knew the men needed large, hearty meals to keep them satisfied throughout their lengthy, strenuous work days and wanted to offer his customers the same filling meals.
The first Lumberjacks was such a success when it opened in 2006 that Garrett decided opening subsequent locations in spaces once occupied by other restaurants was the best strategy for growth. We began franchising in 2011.
FC: Are all of your locations in previous restaurant spaces?
BK: Yes, all 10 Lumberjacks locations have been a restaurant conversion. Lumberjacks franchisees appreciate the lower build-out costs that come with old restaurants, since the dining area, kitchen and bathrooms are already in place. Chances are, this means restaurant doors will open in a shorter amount of time.
Plus, we welcome the built-in business that often comes with converted restaurants. Usually, regulars of the previous restaurant concept will try the new concept. By positioning ourselves on major thoroughfares, Lumberjacks also attracts the passerby with our large, eye-catching lumberjack statue out front.
FC: Tell us about your choice to include a lumberjack statue at your locations.
BK: Many of our Lumberjacks restaurants feature a 12-foot tall, 650-pound fiberglass lumberjack statue in a red flannel shirt and blue jeans, hoisting an ax over his shoulder. Statues can be a great draw for consumers. It’s memorable and will grab the attention of the casual passerby.
Plus, a statue can be a photo opportunity for visitors, and when that photo is shared on social media, it creates additional exposure.
FC: Why should someone interested in investing in a restaurant consider joining Lumberjacks? Can you cite a few advantages to becoming a Lumberjacks franchisee over a larger brand?
BK: When entrepreneurs are researching franchises, the large, well-known brands are often more appealing. However, small franchise brands such as Lumberjacks offer many advantages for entrepreneurs, which create the perfect opportunity for some investors.
At Lumberjacks, we have an open communication system between the franchisees and our executive team. As a smaller brand, the Lumberjacks home office team is able to devote significant attention to and truly listen to our franchisees.
We’ve all worked together to help develop promotions, and we have tweaked our system based on feedback and input from our franchisees. Plus, with only a few franchisees in our system, Lumberjacks offers an abundance of support to increase their chances of success.
Since we’re small, Lumberjacks franchisees have wide open territories to choose where they’d like to open a restaurant.
FC: How many franchise locations does Lumberjacks currently have?
BK: Currently, Lumberjacks operates 10 locations in California and Nevada, 5 of which are franchise locations.
FC: Looking forward, what are Lumberjacks’ plans for expansion?
BK: We hope to expand to 35 restaurants by 2022. Territories we are specifically looking to develop include Central California; Reno, Nevada; Oregon and Texas.
FC: What do you look for in a franchisee?
BK: Lumberjacks is looking for single-unit and multi-unit franchise prospects who appreciate all that emerging full-service diner franchise brands have to offer. We seek entrepreneurs who have a background in the restaurant industry and have strong customer service principles.
Previous owners of quick-service restaurants have made an easy transition to the Lumberjacks full-service model, so that is a plus for prospects.
FC: Can you tell us about the initial investment and ongoing expenses needed to open and operate a Lumberjacks Restaurant?
BK: The investment ranges from $425,000 to $1.3 million. For all locations that are open, the price point has stayed closer to $450,000.
FC: What steps do your most successful franchisees take in order to build and grow their respective businesses?
BK: Lumberjacks restaurants are located in small, tight-knit communities so our franchisees always take action to get involved. We believe that making your restaurant a part of your community is just good business. Our franchisees participate in or sponsor local events, such as donating food to local fundraisers or hosting fundraising dinners in their restaurant.
Our franchisee in Susanville, Calif., Justin Cadill, volunteers his time with several local organizations and the local community takes note of his efforts to engage with the community. On his own time, Justin volunteers with several local organizations, including the Elks Lodge, Lassen Community College, Lassen Family Services and many more.
Additionally, Justin has donated food to local fundraisers, such as a fundraiser for a 12-year old girl who was paralyzed, and he’s hosted fundraising dinners, where 15 percent of sales were donated to a local high school.
FC: What advice can you give prospective franchisees on how to evaluate the vast number of franchise opportunities available to them?
BK: My advice would be to meet the corporate team to see if the relationship seems natural. Always pick a concept that aligns with your beliefs and will help you get to where you want to be.
There are a vast number of franchise opportunities out there, and we always ask our prospects if they want to take part in shaping the Lumberjacks brand, as Lumberjacks franchisees will continue to be a crucial element to the future success of Lumberjacks Restaurants.