bannerFranchisee Stories

How a Famous Dave’s Franchise Owner Went From Dishwasher to Multi-Unit Franchisee

How Dave Jones opened 10 restaurants and became co-chair of the brand’s franchise advisory board.

By Kayla Bodel1851 Franchise Contributor
SPONSORED 10:10AM 09/28/20

Famous Dave’s franchisee Dave Jones is a brand veteran. Jones began his career with the brand as a dishwasher at the Lincoln, Nebraska location and  later  went on to work for Willy Theisen, Nebraska’s first Famous Dave’s franchisee, in Omaha and Bellevue. Eventually, Jones went into business with the brand for himself and moved to Missouri, purchasing locations throughout Kansas City and Branson. 

After years of working his way through the ranks at Famous Dave’s, Jones is now the co-chair for the brand’s franchise advisory board and the owner of 10 locations across the Midwest — including his partnership in five restaurants at Missouri’s esteemed Big Cedar Lodge.

1851 Franchise: Tell us your story – what did you do before franchising?

Dave Jones: Before franchising, I was in the military and got out of the army national guard in 1999. When I finished basic training for the army, I moved to Lincoln, Nebraska for college and got a part-time job as a dishwasher for the Famous Dave’s location there. 

After moving up to a cook, server and bartender, I became a manager for a location in Omaha where I worked for Nebraska’s first Famous Dave’s franchisee, Willy Theisen. I started off driving two hours every day from Lincoln to work for Willy and eventually I moved to Omaha where I opened a few more locations for him. I ended up buying all the Omaha restaurants about five or six years ago from Willy, including the restaurant in Lincoln where I started my career as a dishwasher. I also own a restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri and a different location in Branson, Missouri that has been there since May 2006. We are relocating that one in 2021.

1851: How did you hear about Big Cedar Lodge?

The opportunity at Big Cedar Lodge resulted after years of relationship building with their team. Six years ago, the Professional Golf Association (PGA) came to Top of the Rock Golf Course at Big Cedar and held a celebrity golf tournament. I tried to convince them to cater Famous Dave’s but we weren't considered an approved vendor. The following year, I received a call from Big Cedar’s tournament director saying they were looking into new options for this year’s tournament and wanted us to do some of the catering for them. It started off very small, and as the trust built, we’ve taken on more and more with them.

Earlier this year, I went on a camping trip with my family at Big Cedar Lodge and I saw the restaurant they had at the marina for sale and thought about the potential for Famous Dave’s there.That following Monday, I was speaking to an executive at Big Cedar Lodge about my camping trip. I told him about the restaurant I saw and asked if he would be interested in leasing it to me. Through that conversation alone, the idea evolved from leasing that single restaurant to four additional locations across Big Cedar’s property.

1851: How did you initially find out about franchising? 

Jones: I found out about franchising through Willy.  He was the founder of a franchise called Godfather’s Pizza and he taught me everything through his Famous Dave’s franchises. I would consider Willy to be my mentor, he’s really helped shape my career in franchising.

I now serve as co-chair to the franchising advisory board for Famous Dave’s and have been a member for the last seven years.

1851: Why did you choose franchising over starting your own business?

Jones: I chose franchising over other career paths because I was tired of all my hard work paying off for someone else. I decided not to start something new because I was already running the restaurants like I owned them —  I just wasn’t using my own money to do so. I was part of the Famous Dave’s organization already, so why not continue doing something that I’d seen success in?

1851: What types of brands did you look at?

Jones: I looked into commercial real estate from time to time, but I really never looked into any other brands. It was always Famous Dave’s for me. 

1851: Why did you choose Famous Dave’s? What excited you most about the potential?

Jones: The concept of Famous Dave’s works for me because I’m very hands-on. Starting as a dishwasher, I know every piece of the business and that is the success model for me. I know how certain things impact all the people below me because I’ve experienced them. 

1851: What are your dreams with the business? What does the future look like?

Jones: My dream for this business is to become an approved vendor for the PGA and travel around to different tournaments for catering. I would love to do more catering with golf tournaments and eventually travel with them across the country.

1851: What value do you see your business providing to the community?

Jones: We’re very tight-knit within the community and with its charitable organizations. I think we actually give back more than we make when it comes to the time, energy and money. We try to be very involved with organizations in the Branson, Ridgedale and Hollister communities by doing things like opening our restaurants on holidays to feed the homeless. 

1851: What advice would you have for others looking at buying a franchise?

Jones: You have to work the business yourself. You can’t expect the franchisor to make you successful. If you expect the franchisor to make you money, then you’re never going to make any money.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.