Shoeless Joe’s

Celebrating 25 years of delicious cuisine

“We’re serious about good food.”

The slogan for the Shoeless Joe’s restaurant chain, one of ambiance, atmosphere and an aromatic menu, truly illustrates its commitment to quality. When describing the eatery, the term ‘unique’ comes to mind, a philosophy that has been a pillar to the company’s success, one that includes its tasteful food, eminent customer service and an atmospheric social scene.

That atmosphere has strengthened the company’s image and brand to its current stance, one that has seen growth and enhancement in recent years at a time when many in the food service industry were struggling with the global economic downturn. Both the restaurant’s overall look and menu have seen a recent facelift, a rebranding as the restaurant has continued to evolve in recent years. That adaption is one of many reasons for the chain’s success in the restaurant market.

In speaking with The Canadian Business Journal, Joel Friedman, Senior Vice President of Franchises and Real Estate with Shoeless Joe’s, commented on the restaurant’s development and evolution, always seeking new ways to meet the diversifying needs of its customers.

Evolution in the market

“Years ago, the local restaurants were probably 70 per cent alcohol, 30 per cent food. We are now 65 to 70 per cent food and 30 to 35 per cent alcohol. People are not going out just to drink. They want good food with good value,” said Friedman. “What’s interesting is that people are eating full meals at the bar now, with steaks and bottles of wine, where before it used to be a drink and that’s it. It’s added ambiance.”

“It will still be a place where the sports team can go and also where you can take your spouse for a nice dinner and have a steak,” said Friedman, adding that “there isn’t one seat that cannot have two TVs looking at them.”And while the chain has greatly maintained its primary roots as a sports grill establishment, the company continues to push its future endeavors.

Eye toward the future

“We have several prototypes on the development side. We have 4,000, 5,000, and 6,000 square foot locations. Lately we have been opening 4,000 square feet, but in early February, we will be pleased to announce the opening of a 15,000 square foot flagship store in downtown Toronto,” said Friedman.

The 4,000 square foot locations, the traditional size, are unique in that they create a viable restaurant atmosphere while simultaneously giving the restaurant an added feel during its less-than-busy periods.

The company is truly excited about the new, high-profile location in downtown Toronto, where the company will be basing a new location at the Mervish Production theatres. The plans for growth don’t stop there either, with eight to 10 new locations on the books for this year, with the company also looking to add that same number in 2011. The goal is to continue to grow by that number each year, while ensuring that expansion is strategic.

One of those new locations is in London, Ontario, a franchise operated by the uncles of Canadian figure skating gold medalists Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue. Illustrating one of the restaurant’s trademarks, the London franchise is customized with the memorabilia of Moir and Virtue, with the dress and suit they wore when they won the gold displayed in the restaurant, alongside their photograph.

Community involvement

Aside from its appetizing menu and quality customer service, what separates Shoeless Joe’s from the norm is its work in its communities, with restaurants that sponsor 60 or 70 sports teams. Its best franchisees “become the mayor” in those localities.

With the profitability of its franchisees always top of mind, Shoeless Joe’s is looking to improve the stances of its personnel. As such, the company has worked with its suppliers to reduce its food costs by three per cent, among other things. One benefit of owning a Shoeless Joe’s is that the franchises are among the lowest cost of entry for mid-casual dining. Meaning, to open a Shoeless Joe’s is about $550,000 to $650,000, while its similarly sized competition will cost about $1.2 million to $2.1 million.

“As we grow, we need the support, so we’ve invested into infrastructure. The easiest thing to do is cut costs, but as we grow, we need this infrastructure to grow at the right pace so our restaurants can open successfully. Every company goes through a bell curve, and right now we are on the upper part in growing the concept,” Friedman said.

25 years of quality food and service

Adding to that, a recent promotion is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the restaurant chain, which has featured VIP parties and giving away prizes, while also offering special menus and more. The franchise’s first location, a downtown Toronto location at Eglinton and Oriole Parkway, celebrated the anniversary with a guest list that included its first ever employee, who now operates his own Shoeless Joe’s franchise, and its customers who have been regular visitors over the past 25 years.

Living by its three-pillared motto of sports eccentricity, strong community involvement and having good food and drinks, Shoeless Joe’s has continued to enhance those three primary characteristics over time. Bon appétit!