Reaching 40 locations in four years was an ambitious goal for Mission BBQ owners Bill Kraus and Steve Newton in 2014 considering they only had five locations at the time in two states.
But a little over two years later, that goal will become a reality with four more Mission BBQ locations opening over the next few weeks, giving the Glen Burnie-based company a total of 40 locations.
So where to next?
“At the end of the day, we truly believe we are just getting started,” Kraus said. “Because we have the team in place and continue working within a number of great market opportunities, we think we can double our size in the next two years. Where it took five years to build 40, we want to build another 40 over the next 24 months.”
Adding another 40 locations by the end of 2018 may seem like another ambitious goal, but Kraus said he and Newton have been able to surround themselves with the right people to make the concept work wherever they open.
The latest Maryland location will open Monday in Owings Mills along with a location in Tallahassee, Fla. On Nov. 7, a location will open just outside Cleveland and the 40th location will be a third space in the Tampa market.
Kraus said they have about 40-50 team members per location, so when all the openings are done for 2016, they will employee between 1,600-1,800 employees on either a full- or part-time basis.
“Not only the quality, but the quantity of great teammates we have is a big factor [in the expansion success],” Kraus said. “And ultimately we get tremendous support from these communities we have introduced Mission BBQ to, so we are pretty humbled to reach this goal this quickly.”
Thus far, Mission BBQ has locations in 11 states, even expanding into states known for barbecue such as Tennessee and North Carolina. The new Owings Mills location will be the 12th Maryland location, the most of any state.
On Tuesday, the company expanded beyond the brick and mortar spaces with the christening of a Mission BBQ boat, named Seabrisket, that will host events and deliver barbecue to docks in the Annapolis Harbor.
Kraus said a partnership with Goldman Sachs has allowed the company to have the resources on a capital standpoint to be able to continue the restaurant expansion.
Adding 35 restaurants since February 2014 and looking to add 40 more, Kraus said they are conscientious to expand without adding too much. Having all the locations be corporately held and not franchising has helped and will be a model the company will continue to follow.
“We jokingly say if anyone was to screw it up it will be Steve and I,” he said. “But we work hard everyday to make sure it doesn’t happen and we continue to be very mindful of where pitfalls might be.”
Where the next 40 locations might go is being held close to the chest, but Kraus said they are definitely exploring new locations in Maryland and around the mid-Atlantic. With a second location opening in Ohio, the Midwest would also make sense.
And while barbecue may have roots in southern and middle America, Kraus feels the transient nature of today’s generation would allow Mission BBQ to work anywhere.
“We think this can be an everywhere thing,” he said. “You yearn for things you really enjoy and so we believe barbecue has the legs, and we have the menu, that can go anywhere.”