Bar Louie, a neighborhood bar and restaurant chain, has kicked off an aggressive national expansion plan, projecting 40 new openings for 2013 and 2014. In addition, Bar Louie has plans for nearly 100 new corporate and 100 franchise locations across the United States within the next 5 years.

Bar Louie currently operates 75 locations in 25 states, with roughly a quarter of those being franchised units, according to Chris Devlin, senior vice president of new business development.

Founded in 1990 in Chicago, the Bar Louie brand was purchased in 2010 by Sun Capital Partners. The chain's corporate headquarters moved to Addison, Texas, and a new executive team entered the picture. The team initially focused on retooling the brand before putting significant efforts toward renewed growth.
"We took time to do some research. We wanted to take the best of the brand's history and incorporate that going forward," Devlin says. "Over the years a lot of things that had made the brand special had been value-engineered out."

Part of the research revealed that 51 percent of Bar Louie guests are female. "That was a bit of a surprise. As we studied the architecture of the brand we saw that it had moved toward more of a masculine feel, but what appealed to women were details like the brand's original handcrafted mosaic tile, unique light fixtures, plants and certain colors," Devlin says. "We made sure to bring those things back."

Bar Louie seeks locations between 5,000 and 9,000 square feet and nightlife-friendly spaces that suit its bar-centric concept. Its interiors feature plenty of high-top seating, including community tables designed to promote socializing as well as low-top tables for dining and an eclectic mix of soft seating. Many units include large outdoor patio spaces, as well.