Chaps Pit Beef, of Baltimore, which has received national exposure through restaurant specials on the Food Network and the Travel Channel, is slated to expand to Aberdeen in the spring, the start of an effort to franchise the restaurant in other locations.
"We have about half a dozen groups that are waiting for the Aberdeen location to open before they commit to purchasing a Chaps Pit Beef franchise," said Mark Ludes, director of business development for MBB Management, a New Jersey firm hired by Chaps' owners to oversee the franchising side of their business.
"That's how popular the brand has become in the Baltimore area," Ludes added.
The latest Chaps restaurant is expected to open in May at 1013 Beards Hill Road in The Corner at Beards Hill Road shopping center.
That space has been home to a Gino's Burgers & Chicken restaurant since early 2013, when the chain returned to Aberdeen after an absence of more than 20 years.
Chaps has taken over the lease of that space, though, and will take possession of the store Monday.
"That particular road and that particular shopping center, it's a perfect market, we feel, to expose the Chaps brand to a franchise level," Ludes said.
The space will be converted from a Gino's to a Chaps, and it should be ready to open within 60 days.
"We anticipate opening within the next 60 days – perhaps sooner, but we're looking at a 60-day opening process," Ludes said.
Phyllis Grover, director of planning and community development for the City of Aberdeen, said Thursday she has been in communication with Chaps representatives for about a week and a half regarding what they must to do to convert the restaurant space.
"They will need to apply for permits for new signage and tenant lease space improvements," Grover said.
Ludes stressed the Aberdeen restaurant, which will have the same menu as Chaps' original Pulaski Highway restaurant in Baltimore, is a "corporate store" owned by Chaps, but it will be a prototype for stores owned by franchisees.
Chaps is owned by Bob and Donna Creager, and their Baltimore restaurant opened in 1987. They are making their first foray into expansion and franchising, Ludes said.
Chaps' menu includes staples such as pit beef sandwiches, hamburgers, barbecue, hot dogs, sausages and French fries.
"It'll have all of the staples that have made Chaps Pit Beef as famous as it is," Ludes said of the Aberdeen restaurant.