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A classic, family-friendly hangout on the verge of growth in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond
Bob Barry is the president and CEO of The Greene Turtle Franchising Corporation. Founded in 1976, The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille is a casual, all-ages restaurant that provides a one-of-a-kind dining experience for the whole family. The restaurant’s menu features American comfort food classics as well as local beer, fine wines, and an evolving selection of cocktails. The Green Turtle currently operates in over 40 locations across Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, DC, and New York, with plans to expand further throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and the US as a whole.
Bob Barry spoke with citybizlist publisher Edwin Warfield for this interview.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Tell us about how the Greene Turtle has expanded since JPB bought it in 2007 and you came on as COO.
BOB BARRY: In 2007, there were seven locations. We’re 42 now. The two large milestones that we did in 2007 were that we did a bridge loan prior to closing the deal in July of 2007. The first one was to do the Verizon Center in Washington, DC—that was a huge opportunity for us, for several reasons: one, we felt the location was great, and two, if we’re going to build a brand what better way to get in a venue like the Verizon Center, where a lot of eyes are on it. At the same time, we did the BWI location. BWI, again, a great location for several reasons: both are very profitable, high volume, but more importantly it gets a lot of eyes outside of our market, so it gave us the opportunity to really promote the brand out of those two locations.
In 2007, we looked at the business and knew that we had to change it. In order for us to grow the business, we could no longer just be a pub. Back then, the perception was that the Greene Turtle was a watering hole. When it started in Ocean City, back to as they started—canned beer, peanuts, gathering place—but there was never a food focus.
In the beginning of 2007, there were a lot of things we needed to do. One was to make sure the infrastructure was in place, where we could grow the business. The second would be to make sure the brand was consistent, and all our marks and our marketing efforts were consistent in the look and feel of the restaurants. From there, we grew it to making sure that our team was in the right position. Then we worked on our training program. So, we had to build a foundation in order to build the business.
Q. Take us through your geographic regions. Was the current rate of expansion part of your plan back then?
A. When we started in 2007, we said we were going to expand 50 miles outside of our core radius, then 100, then 150. We had the opportunity to go into New York. We loved the Long Island market for several reasons. Greene Turtle’s been around 40 years, and has always had an association with lacrosse. The brand was well known up in the New York market. We go from New York, currently to Hampton, Virginia, which was right on the border of North Carolina, and out west to Morgantown, and everything in between.
Our big focus right now will be New Jersey. We are set to do 15 stores in New Jersey; 11 stores in Pennsylvania. We’re looking very heavily right now in the Raleigh Durham market—we think that that’s a great market for us, so we’re looking at opportunities down there as well.
Q. How much of that is franchised out?
A. We have 12 company stores and the rest are franchise. Our growth plan going forward right now will be five to seven stores a year, 75% of them will be franchised, 25% will be company stores. In most of the company stores what we’re going to look at will either be fill-in, where we have space in the Maryland market, or it’s going to be in an area where we want to seed the market. Like in North Carolina, where we feel that it’s a great market for us but we don’t have a franchisee yet that’s interested in the brand and to bring it down there, so we’ll go down there, we’ll seed the market, put up a company store, with the intention to build around that with a franchise developer.
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