Using a solid reputation and local touches, Bar Louie thrives.
A local hangout and a nationwide brand—Bar Louie has successfully managed to straddle these typically divergent descriptors while also growing their brand and innovating their customer experience. CEO Tom Fricke, who joined the Bar Louie team late last year, credits much of the company’s success to “a commitment to providing a unique and fun place for friends and neighbors to gather and enjoy handcrafted cocktails, local beers and wines, food from scratch, awesome music, and great service.”
It was precisely this attitude, combined with a dedication to growth, that intrigued Fricke when the opportunity to join Bar Louie arose.
A New CEO
Tom Fricke came to Bar Louie from HMSHost—an industry leader in culinary innovation—and the similarities between the two have served him well in adjusting to the new position. Both companies are similarly focused on providing an unparalleled customer experience—HMSHost in airports and motorways, and Bar Louie in its 133 establishments across the country. Similarly, both have a sense of corporate responsibility and, as a result, have become a strong part of the community through involvement with local charities.
People going into a Bar Louie location enter an environment which is unlike that of any other. The space is typically well-populated whether it’s dinnertime, happy hour, or after hours when it’s lively with music. Fricke believes that as Bar Louie continues to grow, he and his team will have the opportunity to expand the brand and build a new niche industry.
Approachable Local Flavor
Such a niche industry is centered on what really sets Bar Louie apart: its ability to connect with local communities and become an approachable place where people in the neighborhood gather for food, drinks, and fun. One way in which the bar establishes itself as a valuable part of the community is through its long-running “Louie Loves” program which reaches out and supports local “worthy and meaningful non-profit organizations.” In doing so, the company shows that it cares not only about the customer experience inside the bar, but about the surrounding neighborhood as well.
Each of the 133 Bar Louie locations is unique and dedicated to expressing its “modern, relaxed vibe” in a way that represents the community and is inviting to locals. All menus include: 35 handcrafted cocktails; food made from scratch that customers across the country have come to expect at a Bar Louie; and local beers and wines for a distinct flavor.
The specialized menus are available all day, every day until close, providing a place for locals to congregate and hang out, or enjoy private dining for business or celebratory events. It’s also a familiar place for visitors who still want to experience local flavor. It’s this familiarity of quality and atmosphere combined with a touch of local flair that have been key factors in the company’s success.
Customer Experience and Quality Staff
Of course, providing such a unique dining and drinking experience requires a capable front-line staff, and Bar Louie takes great pride in having staff and bartenders who welcome guests and immediately make them feel at home. The company is constantly looking at state-of-the-art ways to find and recruit the best new team members.
Training and equipping staff with the right skills to provide a five-star guest experience, combined with neighborhood charm, is the next important step. According to Fricke, Bar Louie is dedicated to listening and responding to feedback from customers, reading every review, and making the appropriate changes to make sure the needs of every guest are met. Furthermore, he explains that quality employees are retained by giving them the chance to learn and grow within the system and find “new and expanding opportunities.”
Top Food Franchise
Bar Louie was recently named a top food franchise by Entrepreneur Magazine, a distinction Fricke considers, “a true honor.” To him, it shows just how far Bar Louie has come since its founding in Chicago in 1991. The company was purchased by an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners in 2010, and growing the brand became a new focus.
Since then, there has been an increased emphasis on investing in internal and guest-facing systems and technology. This has led to significant growth—from 45 units at the time to the present 133—plus further innovation and menu upgrades. All of this while still staying true to the brand and its signature martinis, margaritas, and sangrias made with fresh fruit and hand-squeezed juices.
Changes and Continued Growth
Tom Fricke joining Bar Louie as CEO wasn’t the only change to occur at the company recently, as the entire management team has been strengthened. These new additions, all with unique backgrounds from established companies in a variety of industries, will help Fricke expand the brand in new and creative ways.
New additions to the management team include: Robert Chin, the Chief Marketing Officer who has an extensive background in the wine industry; John Morberg, the Chief Financial Officer who is experienced in private equity and growing businesses; Stephanie Davidson, the Chief Human Resources Officer who has vast experience in the consumer products industry; and Chef Steve Madonna, the Senior Vice President of Culinary who has years of experience in creating exciting new menus.
Fricke sees Bar Louie moving into the next decade by furthering creativity around the entire experience. He hopes to shine a light on the bar’s distinct front-line execution while at the same time improving business systems on the back-end. Such an endeavor includes exploring new technology in the front and back of house.
Bar Louie is continuing to look to move into new markets and increase franchisee offers. Along with this will come an expanded food menu that will equal the amount of creativity and passion that has been put into their drink menu at all locations. Chef Madonna—former chef and Director of Culinary for Wolfgang Puck’s—looks to be a vital part of this plan.
Fricke concludes with optimism, “I would love every guest to walk into Bar Louie and have a five-star experience every time—even people with different expectations. We want our guests walking away saying, ‘That was a terrific experience!’”
Bar Louie is an eclectic, urban bar made famous for signature cocktails & dynamic beer selection.
Bar Louie HQ
4550 Beltway Drive
Addison, TX 75001