Partners aim to offer the best with this ‘wurst franchise’

Michael Kohlhoff and his business partners, Justin Jones and Terry Osborn, think they’ve found the perfect restaurant for Tri-Citians.

It’s a franchise called the Dog Haus Biergarten, located at 7425 Sandifur in Pasco, and it’s set to open in February.

“We’re hoping to open right on the heels of the Super Bowl if we’re lucky,” Kohlhoff said.

The new restaurant will feature hot dogs, sausages and burgers served on grilled King’s Hawaiian rolls.

Kohlhoff and his partners purchased the top line of the offered franchise options, which features a kitchen plus a bar that serves both beer (24 taps) and hard alcohol.

The restaurant will have numerous televisions on the walls and in the spring, summer and fall, there will be outside seating.

Seating is expected to be 38 inside, including the bar, with seating for 12 outside.

Opening the Dog Haus has been a years’ long quest for Kohlhoff, who moved to the Tri-Cities in 2008 after he and his wife lived overseas as expatriates.

Kohlhoff started working for Lockheed Martin in IT in the Hanford area. That’s where he met Jones, who had moved to the area in 2008 also, but from Oklahoma.

The right restaurant

It has taken a number of years to find the right opportunity.

“We’ve tried for several years to bring something to the Tri-Cities that it doesn’t have,” Kohlhoff said.

As luck would have it, social media was listening.

“I was at home one night, talking to my wife about maybe trying to bring something new to the Tri-Cities,” said Kohlhoff. “We were discussing maybe a cool German-style restaurant.”

Kohlhoff said the next evening, he was browsing online the next evening when he came across an advertisement for the Dog Haus.

He was intrigued by the company’s line, “Come join the absolute wurst franchise.”

Kohlhoff put in a request for more information on the company.

“Within 30 minutes I got an email back, and then I got a call,” he said.

It was Erik Hartung, an executive vice president responsible for growth and development for the Dog Haus brand, as well as Absolute Brands.

Hartung sent him the information on getting a franchise.

“I told Justin and Terry I think we’ve found something,” Kohlhoff said. “We looked at the information and we were hooked. It’s something very new and pretty exciting.”

The closest Dog Haus franchise is in Sandy, Utah.

There are 70 franchises overall, and another 150 in development, Kohlhoff said.

Dog Haus opened its first store in 2010 in Pasadena, California. In 2013, the company started franchising.

“There are pockets, like the Northwest, that they’re trying to get into,” he said.

And the trio has contracts for possible new locations in southeastern Washington.

“Our area consists of Benton and Franklin counties, plus Walla Walla and Whitman counties,” said Kohlhoff. “To start, we’re going to have two in the Tri-Cities, and we want to build a third in Pullman for the college crowd.”

Never having been in the restaurant business won’t stop the partners.

Kohlhoff and Jones still have their full-time jobs. They’re both project managers at Hanford, now working for different companies. And Osborn, Kohlhoff’s neighbor, is a UPS driver.

“We’re not restaurant guys, but we’re business guys,” Kohlhoff said. “Our model is not as owner-operator. But instead, we’ve brought in a general manager who has 20 years experience in the marketplace. When we build the other stores, that general manager will become a regional manager.”

7 restaurants in 1

In addition to the Dog Haus brand, Kohlhoff and his partners have access to six other menus under the Absolute Brands marketing that Dog Haus started in March 2020 – allowing them to offer a seven restaurants-in-one setup.

“It works as a collective of virtual restaurants,” Kohlhoff said. “It’s a full ecosystem and it works off of our entire menu.”

Those other six restaurants are:

  • Big Belly Burgers.
  • Jailbird’s Chicken Wings and Tenders.
  • Bad Mutha Clucka Nashville-style chicken sandwiches.
  • Bad-Ass Breakfast Burritos.
  • Huevos Dias breakfast tacos.
  • Plant B, which features meat alternatives.

Franchise owners can choose which menus to use.

“Gradually, we’ll put them on,” said Kohlhoff. “But if the numbers aren’t good, we can turn them on or off.”

The trio will start with the Dog Haus menu, as well as the Bad-Ass breakfast burrito brand.

The breakfast burritos will basically be for delivery only.

“It’s all on digital delivery, and we’ll use Uber Eats and Door Dash,” Kohlhoff said.

The owners are expecting delivery to be 30% of their business.

“The company does an excellent job of integrating the local delivery system,” Jones said.

“Also (beer) growlers can be delivered to you. Not too many places in the Tri-Cities do that.”

The three expect to hire 50 employees to begin with, and eventually the store will settle into 30 to 35.

In early January, Kohlhoff and Jones were spending 10 days in class in California, training to learn the Dog Haus way.

The finish line to the opening is getting close.

“I can’t stand it, I’m so excited,” Kohlhoff said.

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