Mar 23

Pluckers spreading wings for even more expansion

3 restaurants set to open in ’23 in San Antonio, Houston, Austin

As it approaches three decades in business, Pluckers Wing Bar is preparing to boost its store count to 31 locations — and executives are looking beyond the borders of their home state for fresh expansion.

The Austin-based restaurant chain just announced three upcoming opening in Austin, Houston and San Antonio in 2023. In the first quarter, one location will open in Brooks, a 1,300-acre mixed-use community and the company’s fourth store in the San Antonio metro. Pluckers plans to open its seventh location in Houston within the first quarter, at 8731 W Loop S. in the Meyerland neighborhood. An in the third quarter, the company is slated to open its ninth Austin store, at 9300 I-35 S. in the Southpark Meadows shopping center. it is now up to about 2,700 employees.

Pluckers was planning a growth kick before the pandemic began, and its plan were not derailed for too long. Before the pandemic, a restaurant could open about seven months after signing a lease. Today it takes about 12 months, said Pluckers co-owner Sean Greenberg.

Although one cannot get too comfortable in this environment, as the world moves from pandemic and into war, Pluckers leaders are confident they can attain 20% growth annually, opening four to six restaurants.

“We’re not so far away from seeing a Pluckers open outside of Texas that’s run by Pluckers as opposed to a franchisee,” Greenberg said.

Pluckers has two franchised Baton Rouge stores, which opened early in the company’s history. At the time, the owners thought it would be profitable to franchise, and later found out this was not the proper direction for their business. Greenberg said franchising means losing control and he would rather run the brand from within the company. This is not a knock against the franchisee, Greenberg explained, but Pluckers was young when it made this decision.

Greenberg wants to bring Pluckers to residents who have left Austin and the state, but still crave its wings.

When expanding, Pluckers leaders weigh several factors for locations. Around the state and especially after the pandemic, there are many fast-growing cities and suburbs. Austin is a booming city, but there are so many others that have also experienced growth. Pluckers wants to swoop in on those markets.

One item of consideration is the upward pressure from Pluckers employees who want to advance their career within the company and have the know-how to run a restaurant. Pluckers pays attention to where these employees want to go, and if it is a sensible location, it may become a reality. The trick is finding where employee interest and a lucrative location intersect.

Pluckers does not have institutional investors so it is able to be more autonomous in where it grows and how many stores it opens, Greenberg said.

Aside from these factors, Pluckers pays attention to demographics and population density, and listens to what customers say via social media.

Pluckers is seeking locations of about 8,000 square feet, Greenberg said — which may be going in the opposite direction some other restaurants who are downsizing locations after the pandemic. Pluckers is seeing dine-in crowds returning to 2019 levels, Greenberg said. Overall, Greenberg believes there will be a 5% or more increase in to-go business across the industry, comparatively.

Pluckers has a mixed property situation, with some locations being leased and some owned.

Supply chain concerns are also front of mind for the company’s leaders. Many restaurants have been affected by rising chicken prices but Pluckers’ focus on wings has presented unique exposure to the problem. At their pandemic peak, chicken prices were up 80% according to Greenberg.

The company combated the price increase by adding surcharges to menu items. Prices have fallen somewhat and are now roughly 20%-30% higher than pre-pandemic, so Pluckers is removing those surcharges, Greenberg said.

In its most recent wave of expansions, Jason Baker with Baker Katz LLC was the company’s Houston broker, Whit Jordan with CBRE Group Inc. brokered the San Antonio property, and Scott Carr of Carr Development Inc. brokered the Austin deal.

Pluckers co-owners Mark Greenberg, Dave Paul and Sean Greenberg opened the first Pluckers in Austin in 1995.

Written by Sahar Chmais
Staff Writer – Austin Business Journal

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