Jack Flechner was a successful Five Guys franchisee who walked away from burgers and fries to start serving New Orleans flavor and magic with VooDoo BBQ & Grill
Jack Flechner, 39, was a south Florida real estate attorney who decided around 2005 to get into food franchising through Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which has grown into one of the most successful restaurant franchises in the nation. Even within a thriving franchise system, Flechner’s Miami-area Five Guys restaurants were among the most profitable and highest-ranked in cleanliness and customer satisfaction. In 2011, Flechner decided to leave Five Guys and, with a team of partners, sign a franchise agreement with VooDoo BBQ & Grill to develop 26 VooDoo restaurants throughout the state. Flechner’s first VooDoo restaurant is projected to open in late August. Leave a successful franchise to throw in with VooDoo BBQ & Grill? Why did he do that?
Q. How did you and your team decide to purchase a barbecue franchise?
A. I’d been speaking with some neighbors and friends of mine about working together in food franchising, and we thought maybe we should partner up for a brand-new venture, a food concept that hadn’t been tried before in south Florida. I talked to a lot of people, started looking around on the web, really trying to find places that weren’t already in Florida that could translate well to Florida. I chose barbecue in part because, even through Florida has barbecue places, the market’s far from saturated, and no one here does the fast-casual concept like VooDoo does.
Q. Why did you choose VooDoo?
A. Just a whole bunch of different factors. I love the name. I think it’s a great, cool name. VooDoo is different from other barbecue places in Florida in that it’s fast-casual rather than the kind of Mom-and-Pop shack or the much larger sit-down restaurants that are really prevalent down here. I think VooDoo is really well-situated to fill a niche in between. And then, of course, we tried the food. That’s what gets people to come back. We flew up to New Orleans and came back hooked. And it wasn’t just the food — it was the ambience, the atmosphere, bright, clean, inviting, with the open kitchen and Louisiana music. We just loved the look, the feel, the food. We knew we had a winner. We think we can get people in the door, and we know once we get ‘em in the door, they’re going to want to come back.
Q. Why aren’t there more barbecue restaurants in this or any other market?
A. Well, there are some, but they’ve been predominantly the little shacks that are one- or two-person operations, and they don’t have ability or desire to expand. A few have developed beyond that point, but they’re definitely the exception, not the rule. That’s why I think barbecue has the ability to explode nationally. Plus, barbecue is a difficult thing to do well. It takes time and skill; it’s not just a matter of grilling burgers and frying fries, even if the burgers and fries are really good. If you’re a barbecue cook who’s been doing it for a long time, you can do it well, but training someone is very, very difficult, which makes it hard to put in processes that allow other people to do it easily. That’s one of the challenges for any barbecue restaurant. Thankfully, VooDoo has developed a system over nearly a decade that allows people to learn quickly and execute.
Q. Why do you think there’s demand for good barbecue restaurants in Florida?
A. First, it’s an underserved market as far as barbecue. There are certainly barbecue restaurants down here, but not a lot, and there aren’t many that are very good. Barbecue has been a regional kind of thing across the South, but Florida really hasn’t been a part of that. This is still a relatively new state. People come here from all over. That’s one reason why we will be successful. Since people are from all different places, they’ve probably tried barbecue before and liked it but not been able to find a place down here that can satisfy that need.
Q. Do you like what you do?
A. I love what I do. I like that what I do makes people happy. In prior lives of mine, moving paper around, I never got that satisfaction. With this, I get it every day. People will come up and tell me how good the corn pudding or brisket was, or say, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” It’s great, especially with the economy in the shape it’s in, to be able to give people a quality meal in a clean, fun environment and at a reasonable price.
Q. Does barbecue make people happy?
A. It makes me happy, and I’m a pretty good gauge of food. Barbecue’s a fun kind of food. It tastes good. It’s not too fancy. You can get different kinds, regional styles, flavors, it makes a good meal for lunch or dinner or at parties or for catering events — and the VooDoo experience makes it a fun place to be.
About VooDoo BBQ & Grill
VooDoo BBQ & Grill is a chain of barbecue restaurants based in south Louisiana that opened its first location in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day 2002. VooDoo serves competition-style barbecue beef, pork and chicken with unique side dishes, plus salads and sandwiches, in a clean, colorful fast casual environment. For more information, visit voodoobbq.com or voodoobbqfranchise.com, or contact: