Feeding Our Flywheel

One of my favorite business management books is Good to Great by Jim Collins.  All of our corporate employees are required to read it and then read it again every year.  The reason behind my passion for the principles in this book is simple; they work. One of the concepts that hits home is the Flywheel Effect. Its genius lies in the simplicity of the theory.

A flywheel is a substantial wheel that requires enormous power to move. You can push and push with very little movement. Continue pushing and the flywheel manufactures force and in the long run it begins to turn on its own.  Basically, it starts feeding its own results and the momentum only continues to build.  Collins points to the turning as the instant at which an organization goes from great to awesome or when things really get rolling.

The flywheel idea gives clarity to classic business concepts that lead the way to great results and continued momentum.  In Good to Great, Collins dives deep to detail the flywheel effect in companies as varied as Abbott Labs, Kroger and Wells Fargo.  The concept applies to any industry, even the barbecue business.  It’s all about building force, energy, momentum….passion!

New ideas are great and we are constantly innovating but sometimes a back to basics mindset creates results that build. My flywheel is Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.  My job is to push results as fast as possible while maintaining authenticity.  In today’s fast casual industry it’s not the largest companies that are successful but the fastest and most nimble. At Dickey’s, we’ve put our shoulders to the flywheel moving forward gradually but consistently picking up speed.

This continued result has built the success of our brand. It started with perfecting our recipes and guest experience in local stores, growth throughout Texas and continues daily through franchise expansion across the country.  My commitment is to improve something about our brand every single day. We build new locations, wow new guests and find efficiencies that all move our flywheel. 


The Secret Sauce

I recently read an article in Entrepreneur Magazine about innovation. The gist of the article was about how many businesses fall into the trap of growing but neglecting techniques and systems that generate new ideas. While innovation isn’t a term you would normally associate with a 74-year-old barbecue chain, it’s actually a core focus of our company and the bread and butter of any successful business.  

My family has set out to reinvent the world of barbecue and this requires us to recreate, reimagine and disrupt our industry on a daily basis. Launching a regional restaurant brand on to the national stage was a bold move when we first started franchising in 1994. It took the collaborative creativity of skilled entrepreneurial leaders and passion.  We didn’t consider ourselves trailblazers but as it turns out we were doing something that had never been done.

We continue pioneering in our industry and also within our own brand.  Although we have deep roots and traditions, we are always looking for groundbreaking ideas from outside our four walls. We scour the retail and restaurant industries for best practices and our core team is comprised of avid readers; anything from business books to convention papers.  We still focus on core values and traditions – really sticking to what made us great in the first place but we refuse to get set in our ways. There’s a big difference between honoring tradition and stagnation.

Creating new ideas and generating disruptive thought processes are keys to growth and modernization.   This includes everything from the music in our restaurants to Dickey’s craft paper packaging to our web presence or even a logo update; it lets our guests know we’re a modern company.  Staying fresh also means being on the fast track of new technology.  Our guests are busy people and expect an efficient experience which includes online ordering and text capabilities.  We’re bringing a level of sophistication to the barbecue industry through big data, allocation of resources and predictive analytics that will allow us to serve our guests with state-of-the-art precision.

In today’s fast paced, quick serve environment, creating a relevant brand takes strategy and innovation. Guests are demanding more from their brand experiences than ever before.  Our commitment to our guests goes beyond authentic, quality, slow smoked barbecue.  We are committed to innovation, the secret sauce to a best-in class guest experience.

Q&A with Roland Dickey Jr.

Why do you think barbecue is so popular across the country?


Everyone loves barbecue.  There’s just something about sharing a plate of ribs and a cold one that brings people together.  Barbecue is comfort food that connects with guests’ back to basics mindset.

People may be busier these days but they still want wholesome, quality foods that they feel good about serving to their families.

So, are you still planning on global barbecue domination?

You know it! Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is taking barbecue mainstream and doing something that no other brand has done before – taking barbecue to a national audience and eventually international.   We’re taking the southern tradition of barbecue across the country and guests love it. And, we’re winning over hearts, minds and taste buds from California to Virginia and most places in between.    We opened over 100 new Dickey’s Barbecue Pit locations in 2014 and plan on doing the same in 2015 – bring us much closer to barbecue global domination.

How do you keep a 74 year old brand original?

We may be a 74-year-old brand, but we definitely don’t act like it.  Preserving the authenticity and history of our brand is very important to us. But, we put that same emphasis on innovation. We’re always looking for better ways to serve our guests. We have many new ideas to add to our already rich history such as our new restaurant designs coming soon, online and text ordering options, catering hotline, sustainable packaging and healthy menu items. 

Why do you think it’s so important that Dickey’s is still family-owned?

My grandfather started Dickey's Barbecue Pit in 1941.  He was a true Texas character blessed with the gift of gab and the love of real slow-smoked barbecue. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has always been a true family operation with my grandfather working the block and Miss Ollie Dickey serving sandwiches.

But, my dad and uncle really put us on the map. My dad started our catering business by pounding the pavement.  He loved meeting new people and introducing them to great barbecue. That same entrepreneurial spirit is still at work in all of our restaurants today. I’m so proud to be the third generation fortunate to be part of such a great concept and a true American success story.  My family built Dickey's Barbecue Pit the old fashion way, by winning one guest at a time and I’m so proud of that legacy.  I hope guests can feel that passion!

Behind the Smoke

Behind the Smoke

 When Zac Brown sings “I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday night, a pair of jeans that fit just right and the radio up,” he’s just nailed the heart of the guest experience.  Creating a successful brand is about knowing what makes your customers tick and being able to create that experience every time – sometimes before they even know they want it.


Guests crave more than delicious food from their favorite brand – they want a complete experience. One that includes all senses and gets it right every time.  From the rustic design of our restaurants, the wood fire smell from the smoker to the tunes playing in the background – it all sets the vibe for our guest’s experience. We know it’s the details that make guests feel good about dining with us and it’s also what will keep them coming back. 

Our guests relate to our hometown roots. After all, our humble beginnings in 1941 were as a beer joint with a little pit-smoked barbecue in the back.  What we do right hasn’t changed and never will.  Dickey’s Barbecue is recognized around the country, but you walk into our stores it feels like a local barbecue joint. We still pride ourselves on authentic, down-home food, served with genuine southern pride.  We give guests that local joint vibe with all the modern capabilities of a national restaurant chain.

We also make sure we serve our guests consistently.  We have almost 500 locations across the country, but the experience you have in Minot, North Dakota is the same you have in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  At Dickey’s, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But, we do take pride in the art of great barbecue. Although we’re a 74-year old chain, we definitely don’t want to look like it.  Kicking the tires on our brand is essential to staying relevant. Maintaining a streamlined image, whether it’s on Dickey’s craft paper packaging or our web presence or even a logo update; lets our guests know we pay attention to the details. 

In today’s fast paced, quick serve environment, creating a relevant brand takes strategy, innovation and a vibe. Guests are the bread and butter of any business, but especially in the fast casual industry.  Dickey’s has become so much more than just a recognizable national brand.  We hold memories for many people and their families.  They spend their birthdays and graduations with us and let us into their homes for parties and important family events.  We take their loyalty seriously.  Our Big Yellow Cup Club is an opportunity to thank our loyal customers and give them a sneak peek at new menu items and special offers. 

 Some people consider Dickey’s Barbecue an industry anomaly, expanding nationwide on a playing field normally reserved for mom and pop restaurants or regional players. Our growth shows we’re a recognized brand with a national reach –international reach eventually.  Dickey’s brand evolution is the product of a deliberate strategy to take the regional vibe of Texas barbecue to a national audience.  We’re making ourselves known one Big Yellow Cup at a time and our success shows in the many satisfied guests we’ve fed along the way.