Bar Louie is the US’s hottest gastrobar, and it is dedicated to revolutionising the dining experience for its guests. Here, RLI sits down with company CEO Tom Fricke to learn more about the fast-growing business.

The people who work for Bar Louie all begin each day the same, with the pure conviction and passionate belief that ‘restaurants bite’. Enter a Bar Louie, and you can seat yourself and be yourself, guests never have to endure annoying blinking, vibrating pagers, snooty waiters or ultra-hip menus. The company proudly serves shareable, mouthwatering, chef-inspired grub, craft cocktails and local beers that will awaken the senses.

Today the company currently has 134 bars in the US, 111 of these are company owned, with the additional 23 run by franchise partners. “We’ve slowed our development down a little bit in the last year, to really focus on our base operations and to make sure that we are providing the guests with a great experience,” explains company CEO Tom Fricke. “We have spent a lot of time focusing on the guest experience and focusing on food as well, in fact we launched a new menu back in February, so this past year has been a repositioning year for us.” Bar Louie’s new marketing campaign is all about joining this new gastrobar revolution and creating a new category in the market. Unlike gastro pubs which feature a beer led beverage program, this company is spirit led and its new menu reflects this.

Fricke believes the company is more guest focused than they ever have been, and they assess social media reviews every week, whilst the entire operations team is looking at their social media scores and posts to ensure they are providing the guests the experience they deserve and that they want. “We have also become more food focused to ensure the food is right and that the menu and the recipes are being followed and making sure that the guests are getting the kind of food that we think we should be putting out every day,” explains Fricke. Recent openings for the brand have taken place in Florida. One has just opened in Kendall in South Miami, as well as in Winter Park outside of Orlando. An additional unit was also launched in Nashville. The next new bar will be in Dania Beach, North of Miami in Florida.

“We have very big aspirations in terms of the number of units that we think we can have domestically and then we want to start looking at international markets as well such as Canada and Australia”

The result of customer centric product development and the latest fashion trends, KIKO continuously renews itself with products that are always new and closer to the multiple ideals of beauty.

The company does not follow a standard footprint; their units range from 3,000sq ft to 10,000sq ft and are best suited to outdoor mixed-use shopping malls near event locations. In the coming months the target is to reignite unit growth in the US. They have spent the last few months making sure they had all the underlying systems as harmonised as they could have them before looking at further growth, and now they are very close to this and will be looking to open 12- 15 new restaurants a year.

“We have very big aspirations in terms of the number of units that we think we can have domestically and then we want to start looking at international markets as well such as Canada and Australia,” explains Fricke. To ensure the restaurant remains recognisable and continues its forward trajectory, the company has hired world-class chef Steve Madonna, who is coming to the brand from the Wolfgang Puck organisation. The brand thinks of themselves as mavericks within the industry and always thinking of new and unique ways to satisfy guest demands.

Around 50 per cent of Bar Louie’s guests are millennials who like to snap their food before they eat it, and the company recognises this and is constantly looking at ways to integrate social media into its marketing campaigns. For Fricke, customer loyalty is shown in the average dwell time of Bar Louie patrons, which stands at around two and a half hours, a quite remarkable figure for the industry in the US.

“There is something that is absolutely magical about a Bar Louie; when you go into it and its busy and the music is playing and people are having a great time and it’s just the kind of place where all your concerns, worries and troubles heave you when you come into the place, it’s different than a restaurant experience and its different than a bar experience,” says Fricke. Two challenges are facing the company as it looks ahead, one is the industry in terms that it is slightly saturated at this point in time, and also Fricke is looking for the company to find the right development pace. “I think that if you are not growing fast enough, you leave opportunity at the door and if you grow too fast, you can let the business get away from you, this is something we will be looking to get right in the coming years,” he concludes.