Sandwich joint fattens up presence in Denver

The Fat Doobie, Photos by George Demopoulos.

The Fat Doobie sandwich at Fat Shack. Photos by George Demopoulos.

Fast-casual chain Fat Shack is growing its territory wider than the girth of its sandwiches.

The New Jersey-based late-night restaurant chain opened its first Denver location near DU last month and plans to open two more stores in Thornton and Greeley this year.

“It was cool to see how people took to it,” Fat Shack founder Tom Armenti said. “The more stores open, the quicker people get it. It’s nuts to see lines out the door.”

Fat Shack’s concept brings the New Jersey staple “fat sandwiches” to a niche market: college students. The restaurant’s menu consists of sandwiches like the “Fat Doobie”: chicken fingers, French fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks slathered in honey mustard.

The stores stay open until 3 or 4 a.m., and about half of the restaurant’s business comes from deliveries.

Gabauer Whitman Armenti

From left: Fat Shack’s Kevin Gabauer, franchise owner Cory Whitman and founder Tom Armenti

The DU location, which opened in February, is the third Fat Shack in Colorado; the other two locations are in Fort Collins and Boulder. At 1,150 square feet, it’s also the smallest Fat Shack in the state.

Franchisee Cory Whitman said the small size kept rent low in the expensive DU neighborhood.

It cost about $100,000 to get the DU Fat Shack’s franchise up and running, said Whitman, 22.

“The only company who can open franchises this cheap is Subway,” he said. “McDonald’s won’t even talk to you unless you have $1 million in liquid assets.”

Next month, DU’s Fat Shack will be included on an episode of the Travel Channel show “Food Paradise” that will feature Denver’s best late-night eats.

And there will be two more Fat Shacks in Colorado by the end of this year. A location in Greeley will cater to students from UNC, and a Thornton store will attempt to open the chain’s target demographic to high school students.

Whitman

Tom Armenti makes a Fat Doobie sandwich.

The Thornton store has a lease signed already and will open sometime in mid-May. The store will be located on 120th Avenue near Colorado Boulevard.

“There’s three high schools in that area,” Whitman said. “We’re trying to hit the high-school market a bit.”

There’s no lease signed yet on the Greeley store, but Armenti is in negotiations to take over a restaurant space there.

“It’s a little more up in the air, but it’s pretty much a done deal,” Armenti said. “It’s going to open sometime this summer to start the school year.”

Armenti opened the first Fat Shack in 2010 near Rutgers University in New Jersey. To keep overhead costs low, he rented restaurant space from a bagel shop after it closed for evenings.

“I was able to operate the whole thing for under $5,000,” he said. “I didn’t need to buy any equipment; I just had to pay rent.”

On the first day the restaurant opened, it grossed more than $2,000 in sales.

“No one had had a fat sandwich in that area before,” Armenti said. “Through our connection on campus, we just went crazy.”

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