Q&A with Sobelmans Pub & Grill’s Founder, Dave Sobelman
What about Sobelmans makes it unique within its industry?
Before we opened for business in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, no one else in the city focused on burgers and Bloody Marys. But since we changed the game in the industry, there are a ton of people who are trying to copy our menu and model. But that’s what makes Sobelmans so unique—we were the first to make burgers and Bloody Marys our priority, and we’re still the best in the business.
Beyond our top quality food, Sobelmans is unique because we’re the anti-franchise franchise. This isn’t a traditional, cookie cutter operation—our franchisees have the flexibility to tailor their locations to their specific local communities. That starts with the building they open up in. Every Sobelmans restaurant is located in a historic building that comes with its own character. Our franchisees can then build on that character my tweaking their restaurant and menu items so that it’s not identical to the rest.
What have been some of the brand’s most important milestones over the past five years?
From a consumer standpoint, the Bloody Mary craze really took off about five years ago after I put a cheeseburger slider in our signature drink. At first, I thought I might have gone too far. But it’s one of the most popular items on our menu. Introducing that Bloody Mary was a turning point for us because it put us in front of a national audience—even outside of Milwaukee, it’s the first thing people think of when they hear the word “Sobelmans.” Our burger was also voted the best in Milwaukee.
From a business perspective, our biggest milestone over the past five years has been the introduction of our business ownership opportunity. Even though we just started franchising, we already have two units sold that are performing exceptionally well, and we’re excited to expand with the help of even more local owners.
What plans does the brand have in the coming years?
I wake up every day with the intention of going to my restaurants and making sure that we’re making the best possible burgers, Bloody Marys and cheeseballs that we can while providing exceptional customer service. We have a renewed focus on perfection and excellence—from learning more about beef to re-training our kitchen staff in order to ensure that every burger is made the right way, we’re actively taking steps to enhance the entire Sobelmans experience for both our guests and franchisees. My goal is to continue striving for that perfection across the entire Sobelmans system, and help guide my franchisees as they take on that mission as well. We’re also going to continue to look for the right franchisees and unique locations for them to open up in to stay true to the Sobelmans brand as we expand.
What does an ideal franchisee look like?
Just like our customers, our franchisees come from all walks of life. But at their core, they need to share our same passion for serving their local communities the best burgers, Bloody Marys and cheeseballs. We’re looking to partner with experienced restaurateurs who are willing to be hands-on with their business—this isn’t meant for someone who’s looking to hire a manager and walk away. I always say that Sobelmans is like a classic car for franchisees or restaurant owners who are looking to diversify their portfolios. This is the cool concept that they can really love and have fun with. And our ideal franchisee is very involved in their local community, and interested in conversing with the customers that walk through their doors.
Why is Sobelmans a good investment?
Sobelmans is a good investment because it allows franchisees to experience the same level of success that owners of other major concepts are seeing for a fraction of the cost. Our franchisees are seeing sales that are comparable to that of a McDonald’s, Culvers or Applebee’s location in their first year of business alone, which is something that we’re incredibly proud of. Demand in the burger and Bloody Mary segment of the franchising industry is also climbing at an incredibly rapid pace, and because of our position as an industry leader and innovator, we’re building on impressive momentum.