HopCat to refocus on Michigan


(As seen on WZZM TV 13) A refocus on Michigan is among the priorities for HopCat moving forward in 2017, according to the company’s new CEO.

HopCat founder Mark Sellers still is involved in day-to-day operations, but as chairman, now that Mark Gray, the company’s COO, has been appointed CEO. Gray came to BarFly Ventures, HopCat’s parent company, in January 2014 from the California-based Yard House sports bar chain, where he was director of operations.

Once he arrived at Barfly, Gray helped Sellers put together the strategic plan for the future of HopCat, including the expansion strategy and infrastructure in place. In 2015, HopCat announced a partnership with a Texas-based investment group and plans to open 30 HopCat locations in the next five years.

Following the announcement of the Kalamazoo HopCat location in early 2016, the Business Journal reported possible Michigan locations for the company had “dried up,” and it would continue to focus on Midwest college towns.

Currently, HopCat has open locations in Grand Rapids; Kalamazoo; East Lansing; Ann Arbor; Detroit; Indianapolis; Chicago; Madison, Wisconsin; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky. A HopCat in Kansas City, Missouri, is slated to open this week.

Announced locations include Port St. Lucie, Florida; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Royal Oak.

Aside from the internal refocus on Michigan markets, Gray said little has changed in terms of growth strategy moving forward, as he was involved in the planning with Sellers and because Sellers still is very much involved in all decisions.

Gray said HopCat will continue to look at suburban Detroit for additional locations, such as the one opening this year in Royal Oak. He also said the company is, and always has been, interested in Traverse City but does not have anything currently in the works for the northern Michigan city.

He said there are no other Michigan sites currently in the works, and following his interview with the Business Journal, the Minneapolis location was announced.

“We are totally engaged in Michigan,” Gray said. “Any location we can track and find in Michigan to add to the brand without too much cannibalization. We want to be opportunistic in Michigan.”

Aside from more future Michigan locations, Gray said there will be a continued focus on Midwest college-type towns and neighborhoods, despite the extension to Florida with the Port St. Lucie location.

The Florida expansion was an “opportunistic” decision Gray discovered, as he is a resident of the town. While in Michigan most of the time, his family still is in Florida, and he found a waterfront site he thought would be nice for a restaurant go up for sale. He sent pictures to Sellers, and the same due diligence for site selection went into that location as the other HopCats, Gray said.

Along with an added focus on Michigan, Gray said attention could turn its attention to a neighboring state: Ohio.

“Michigan markets have served us well,” he said. “We think Ohio is a great market for us, (we’re) pretty motivated to focus on Michigan in the near future but Ohio in the future, as well.”

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