The pandemic forced delays in the construction of the new Fat Shack in Lawrence, the location’s owner said. Now almost six months later, the Massachusetts Street restaurant has generated the most revenue in 2021 out of the franchise’s 25 locations.
The owner of the Lawrence Fat Shack, Bryson Harris, said the restaurant’s success has far surpassed what he or the franchise’s founders originally predicted. The construction delays they faced postponed the store’s grand opening to December 15, 2020 after previously aiming for a fall 2020 opening, Harris said.
“We were a little bummed that the timing was off because that is when most students were going to start going home for winter break,” Harris said. “Luckily it played out well and we had good enough support from the community and from the students that were staying back.”
It can take a number of years to create a positive brand image and customer loyalty, but in Lawrence they captured that quickly with his connections and marketing, Harris said.
One of the crowds the Fat Shack particularly targets are the late-night college students. The founder of the Fat Shack franchise, Tom Armenti, initially started the business in 2010 as a solution to the lack of late-night food options in his own college town.
Harris has followed a similar model in Lawrence and found great success, he said.
“I think we really targeted that crowd,” Harris said. “Most of our sales come from 10 p.m. and on, so we definitely are more of a late-night crowd and I think we captured that well.”
The Fat Shack franchise relies heavily on delivery, so the CDC limitations on indoor dining during the pandemic had less of an effect on revenue, Harris said.
“A lot of people weren’t able to sit down and eat so it made our restaurant mainly take out and delivery, but luckily for our business COVID doesn’t really affect it,” Harris said. “We do over 50% delivery services on orders.”
The Fat Shack has also been known to open delivery-only virtual kitchens in cities like Chicago, Illinois, furthering their reliance on delivery instead of in-restaurant dining. Customers can then use delivery services like DoorDash, UberEats, Grubhub and Postmates to order food.
Harris said it was important to him to make sure that the business followed the CDC guidelines strictly so that the location would not receive any negative publicity. Creating this positive image has served the Fat Shack well now that most students have left for the summer, Harris said.
“Now that we’ve been in summer a couple weeks, we realized that we do have a good image with the community and Lawrence county as well,” Harris said. “They are still supporting us very well during the summer.”
Recognizing his success in college towns, Harris is now working on his second Fat Shack in Norman, Oklahoma, where the University of Oklahoma is located. He began working on his second location about a month ago.
“I look for big universities because this concept works best in college towns,” Harris said. “I think it does play a big role in how successful we were.”
Harris is hopes to open the Oklahoma Fat Shack location in the Fall of 2021.