Pasadena, California-based Dog Haus is the next Food On Demand Outstanding Operator. 

The 60-unit franchise is known for gourmet hot dogs, burgers and fried chicken sandwiches. The company is also home to Absolute Brands, which has grown to eight virtual concepts available for delivery through its brick-and-mortar locations. 

Dog Haus restaurants feature ample room for seating, spacious patios and a full bar offering local craft brews. While the brand touts its in-dining experience, it focuses heavily on delivery and pickup, which currently make up about 50 percent of the overall sales volume. 

Leveling up digital prowess 

Taking Dog Haus’ digital prowess to the next level is among the top priorities under new CEO Michael Montagano, who joined the company about seven months ago. 

The CEO role is new to Dog Haus, as the company has been led since its 2010 inception by founding partners and long-time friends Hagop Giragossian, Quasim Riaz and André Vener. 

Dog Haus CEO Michael Montagano

Dog Haus CEO Michael Montagano

Montagano brought forth a wealth of expertise in online ordering and delivery from former job as CEO of Kitchen United. He also has over 20 years of industry experience working with big brands such as Chipotle and Wingstop—accumulating a proven track record of driving growth, strategic partnerships, cutting-edge technology, and institutional investment. 

“It’s been a fantastic transition,” said Montagano—adding that he’s already had the opportunity to visit all Dog Haus stores across 12 states. 

“It’s been absolutely wonderful to work with the franchisees, the founders of the business, and our staff on formulating that first-year strategy, surrounded on how do we take our in-store and off-premise business to the next level, by embracing technology to enhance the experience for customers.” 

These strategies included rolling out a robust first-party ordering strategy, which entails a new mobile app, web ordering experience, and loyalty program. 

Dog Haus’ loyalty program “Haus Rewards” offers customers incentives for ordering direct.

“Given the success we’ve had on 3PD (third-party delivery) platforms, our customers clearly like to engage with our food virtually and digitally,” said Montagano. “Our food travels well, so we thought this was a unique opportunity to not necessarily take away from 3PD but to supplement it by attracting new customers and offer a new ordering experience for existing customers.” 

The company debuted Haus Awards, which gives customers incentives to order directly, such as racking up points for every order placed, that can be used towards discounts and free items. 

Montagano says the loyalty program has been embraced extraordinarily well by customers. 

Investing in creative menu innovation 

He also highlighted the success of the company’s virtual concepts under Absolute Brands—especially Bad-Ass Breakfast Burritos. 

“It’s been an incredibly fast-growing brand on our platform, with some franchisees selling over a million dollars a year just out the back door for 3PD,” said Montagano. 

The ongoing demand for the breakfast burritos led Dog Haus to recently add the brand to its in-store offerings and mobile app. This allows customers to order from Dog Haus and Bad-Ass Breakfast burritos on the same ticket and transaction. 

Dog Haus Bad-Ass Breakfast Burritos continue to gain popularity.

“It’s an interesting opportunity to marry our success in-store with Dog Haus and success online with breakfast burritos to cross-pollinate the customers,” said Montagano. “Now it’s a brick-and-mortar brand because of the success it had virtually over the past three years, and first party is what brings this all together.” 

Other virtual brands include The Absolute Wurst, Bad Mutha Clucka, and a plant-based offering dubbed Plant B—to name a few. 

The company launched Absolute Brands in 2020 as a way to keep sales flowing during the pandemic. 

Montagano attributes Dog Haus’ success in virtual concepts to creating in-house brands that are compatible with the company’s primary brand, skews that are in the kitchen, and the operational know-how of the operators. 

“If you are building the brand, based on those core fundamentals, then it is naturally going to be synergistic to the kitchen and work better,” said Montagano. “Our reviews are high, customer feedback is good, and our operational metrics are sound because it was programmed to work that way from the beginning, not by happenstance.” 

Creative menu innovation remains top of mind for the franchise. Most recently, it delved into a lighter fare by turning its Haus Chicken Sandwiches into salad bowls with fresh ingredients. 

Eyes set on growth 

In addition to streamlining online ordering verticals, Dog Haus has enhanced the ability for customers to order to-go within stores via kiosks and QR codes on tablesides. 

Looking ahead, Dog Haus is focused on further expansion. The company added 11 new locations in 2023 and plans to open an additional 20 this year, with half already underway in development. Montagano adds the goal is to have 75+ stores coming out of 2024, across the country. 

The Outstanding Operators Program is highlighting 20 innovative brands taking creative paths to success with all things off-premises. Winners receive a $1000 charitable donation to the organization of choice and will be recognized on-stage at the 2024 Food On Demand Conference. Register today!

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