Janesville’s Fuddruckers restaurant will close next week, ending a run that spanned almost 15 years on the competitive Humes Road restaurant corridor on the city’s north side.
Fuddruckers franchise owner Kevin Brown said Thursday he has decided to focus “100 percent” of his time and effort running The Anchor, a vacationers’ hot spot in Newville that Brown took over in September 2017.
That means he’ll shutter the custom hamburger chain restaurant he moved to Janesville to open in 2004.
Brown said he decided a year ago not to renew his lease at the Fuddruckers property. The franchise, which employs 26 people, will close its doors early next week—likely by Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, he said.
He said an “intensely tight” labor market has made it tough to staff the restaurant and keep it viable.
“Everyone in Janesville is hiring,” he said. “We can’t keep in step with it just because of the overhead of the location.”
Meanwhile, the Humes Road-Interstate 90/39 corridor now has about twice as many quick-service and chain restaurants as it did when Fuddruckers opened, he said.
The announcement comes less than three months after the closure of Janesville’s Quaker Steak & Lube, located just west of Fuddruckers.
Brown said the decision was based on a blend of factors, including a “downturn” in sales he said coincided with the ongoing lane expansion on Interstate 90/39.
At the end of that project, he noted, the state Department of Transportation plans to rebuild the stretch of Humes Road between the I-90/39 interchange and Milton Avenue.
“We just know what’s coming,” Brown said. “It’s just been a lot of question marks.”
He said the Janesville Fuddruckers was built as a “prototype” with a 7,000-square-foot layout that’s about twice the size of newer restaurants.
Brown is working with the building owner, who is listed in tax documents as FR Janesville, on the property’s future. Brown believes the property is in a prime spot because of its proximity to the Interstate, but he said it might need to be redeveloped with more than one restaurant in the building.
For Brown, the biggest reason to close Fuddruckers was his purchase of the Anchor last year. He said he works at the Anchor 14 hours a day during the week and 16 to 18 hours a day during busy tourism weekends at Lake Koshkonong.
“100 percent of our time is spent here at the Anchor, and needs to be spent here,” he said.
He has hired the general manager at Fuddruckers, a longtime employee, as an “administrative assistant” at the Anchor. He said that employee will help develop sales and form a new operational plan at the Anchor.
Over the last year, Brown said he has learned which seasonal events and weekend specials are draws at the Anchor, but he would like to broaden his staff to grow sales in events such as weddings.
He said he also plans to offer jobs to other Fuddruckers staffers.