Fat Shack: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

The owners of Fat Shack, Tom Armenti and Kevin Gabauer, appeared on the Season 10 finale of "Shark Tank," asking the billionaires to invest in their fast food restaurant chain. The former fraternity brothers already had an established business, but wanted a shark to help them grow their edgy concept into new markets. 

In 2010, Armenti, a recent graduate of The College of New Jersey, started Fat Shack after noticing that his alma mater lacked suitable late-night snacking options after partying all night. In contrast, students at nearby Rutgers University waited in line for "grease trucks" serving Jersey-style "fat sandwiches" piled with mozzarella sticks, french fries, and chicken fingers — you know, food you crave at that hour.

With $5,000, Armenti subleased a ghost kitchen from a bagel shop after hours, blanketed his college campus with paper menus, and delivered "fat sandwiches" to students until 4 a.m. By August 2011, Fat Shack outgrew the shared space and relocated to Fort Collins, Colorado, home of Colorado State University. The first brick-and-mortar Fat Shack was an instant success, bringing its colossal Jersey-style sandwiches to a much larger college town.

Seeing the immediate potential, Armenti brought on college friend Gabauer to revamp and grow the business, opening a second location within six months in Boulder, Colorado. By 2015, the company was franchising, and by the time they went on "Shark Tank" in 2019, Fat Shack reported $22 million in sales with 11 locations, but they had bigger dreams.

What happened to Fat Shack on 'Shark Tank'?

Tom Armenti and Kevin Gabauer appeared on "Shark Tank" on May 12, 2019, effortlessly pitching their concept and giving the sharks a taste of what they were selling. Armenti and Gabauer sought an initial investment of $250,000 in exchange for 7.5% of their business.

Sharks Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec immediately passed on the investment opportunity, while "Mr. Wonderful" Kevin O'Leary and Daymond John showed interest. Surprisingly, Mark Cuban was the one that made the deal — initially dismissing the company, saying he only invests in healthy food. However, Armenti and Gabauer eventually convinced Cuban to diversify his portfolio with this unapologetic "cheat meal" option and accepted Cuban's offer of $250,000 for 15% of the business.

In the past, deals have changed or fallen through after filming, but Armenti says Fat Shack's agreement with Cuban is precisely what viewers saw on the show. Discussing their experience on the podcast "Outside The Tank," Gabauer and Armenti spoke of their unique challenges on "Shark Tank," like needing to prepare a fresh meal minutes before pitching. They had confidence in their pitch since they were eight years into their successful business but knew they needed to serve the sharks an unforgettable meal if they expected a deal. Ironically, the chaos of last-minute frying and tripping the small kitchen's breakers kept the duo too distracted to get nervous, and they nailed it when they pitched to the panel.

Life for Fat Shack after 'Shark Tank'

Since Fat Shack owners Tom Armenti and Kevin Gabauer only had 11 locations and weren't able to sell product outside of the physical restaurants, they were unsure how the publicity of "Shark Tank" would affect their business. Within the first month of airing, however, they received 3,000 requests for Fat Shack franchises that their corporate team of six people total (including them) sorted through, and then responded to interested parties.

Despite the initial deluge, within two years of appearing on "Shark Tank," only a few of those requests became actual Fat Shack franchises. Gabauer and Armenti told the "Outside the Tank" podcast they are very selective when choosing franchisees and have turned down millions of dollars in requests, scaring off most people to find owners tough enough to handle the industry.

While they want to grow the business, they are focused on long-term growth rather than rapid success, ensuring the restaurants that open today will remain in a few years and believing the operator is the ultimate determinant of whether the location will succeed.

The deal with shark Mark Cuban immediately gave the franchise credibility, allowing it to expand more effortlessly, especially in Texas, where Cuban lives. Building owners were more willing to lease to a company associated with Cuban, and perspective investors had more confidence in their business plans. Cuban's team opened doors for Fat Shack and remains actively involved with the business, exchanging weekly emails with Armenti and Gabauer.

Is Fat Shack still in business?

In a world increasingly focused on healthier food options, Fat Shack has managed to tap into a niche that college-aged night owls can't resist. In 2021, Restaurant Business placed the company on its "Buzzworthy Brands" list, where it shared the spotlight with companies like Pokeworks and Salt and Straw, a Danny Meyer-backed business. The publication cited Fat Shack's 26% average sales growth since 2018 and that it expanded its locations by a third in 2020, with each restaurant averaging $620,000 in sales.

There are currently 30 locations in 13 states — Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. According to Kona Equity Data, Fat Shack's 2023 annual revenue is estimated at $17,543,000, with an impressive 777.1% growth rate since its first quarter in business.

The former fraternity brothers told "Outside The Tank" they attribute their success to their synergy, balancing each other's skills. As the idea man, Armenti says he's full of energy but always running late and rarely prepared, whereas Gabauer is organized and reliable, the exact relationship they had in college.

Despite their personal success, when the store manager left the Fort Worth location (in Cuban's backyard), Armenti didn't hesitate to roll up his sleeves late-night, deep frying and mopping the floors to keep that location successful. They are still committed to the success of each franchise location, working double-duty to prove it.

What's next for Fat Shack?

Fat Shack's sizable presence on social media helps the brand stay connected to its customers by posting mouthwatering food photos and videos several times a week. The menu contains the typical bar food like chicken wings and sweets, including milkshakes and deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies. However, the "fat sandwiches" keep Fat Shack in the media and have followers dropping drooling emojis on their posts while purchasing its expanding line of merchandise, including trucker hats, ski caps, hoodies, stickers, and T-shirts.

Its namesake sandwich, the "Fat Shack," stuffed with cheesesteak, chicken fingers, jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks, french fries, onion rings, and honey-jalapeño mustard sauce, keeps fast metabolisms happily coming through the door. Another popular one is the "Fat Doobie," topped with chicken fingers, french fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and honey mustard; naturally, it's heavily promoted around 4/20.

Fat Shack stays true to its New Jersey roots, occasionally adding indulgent fried dishes dripping in sauce with clever names to its menu. In early 2023, the OG Fat Shack in Fort Collins, Colorado, debuted new menu items, including Cheesy Tots and fried chicken sandwiches, a national obsession. The menu's salty/sweet Chicken N' Waffle sandwich, served on two waffle buns soaking with honey butter and maple syrup, was tested there before being rolled out to the rest of the nation by the end of summer.