Pulling Our Chain


There has been much speculation on the fast casual market, especially in states like Washington where eating local has become a fascination.  The headline in a recent Forbes article reads “Behind Seattle's Franchise Battle: Why Patrons Don't Care If Chains Die.”   Well, shucks Forbes, I believe there are many people that would strongly disagree with that point.

I wouldn't call Washington the center of the universe when it comes to national tastes but I am willing to take the bait and entertain the thought that as the shop/eat local movement spreads chains need to evolve.

“When is a franchise not a small business? When it’s in Seattle.”

When a local owner opens a franchised location (even in Seattle) they consider it an entrepreneurial endeavor.  Many invest savings they have accumulated over a lifetime.  They don’t take it lightly and neither do we.  When my grandfather opened the first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in 1941 it was a business risk and as we open our 500th location, in Yakima, Washington, there is the same risk/reward proposition.

Our owners buy a system that has been perfected over time.  We provide training, marketing and operations support but it’s still a small business. These local owners invest time, money and resources in the same entrepreneurial spirit as my grandfather did.  A franchise is a small business just ask your local Dickeys Barbecue Pit owner who goes to bed late after loading the smoke pit and gets up early to make sure they serve fresh products to the guests they have come to know so well.

Seattle took it a step further with the the $15-an-hour minimum wage the city passed last summer. They are counting franchises as bigger businesses that have to pay the higher rate sooner, because of their connection to a national franchisor. It's not fair and it's not evenly applied.  I believe it should be struck down by the courts.

“ franchises face a growing crisis. Consumers increasingly tolerate them, but don’t feel deeply attached to them”

We are fortunate to celebrate birthdays, holidays and graduations with guests.  They send us notes, emails, tweets and hand drawn pictures telling us about their experiences.  We once catered a wedding for a couple who met at a local Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and wanted Dickey’s to cater their wedding as a tribute.  I would say we are more than being tolerated.

Guests feel passionate about the foods they eat – I’ll agree with that point.  Barbecue is a food that brings out an even greater sense of passion and connection with guests.  Sometimes just the smell can send you back to the time your grandmother took you to lunch 10 years ago.  Does it have to be local to be special?

We still take great pains to source the freshest meats and track them from the field to the block insuring the highest quality.  We’re dedicated to the craftsmanship of authentic slow smoked barbecue served by local owners in 43 states across the country.  Many guests find this comforting knowing that they can grab a great meal in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and the same great quality food in Clovis, California.  We’re consistently good and there is merit in that accomplishment.

Seattle is a town suspicious of foreign imports (foreign being beyond Washington State borders)

Well that’s too bad Seattle.  You’re missing out on some great meals from really excellent brands.  While your friends in other cities are raving about an innovative new burger or ethnic creation, I hope you’ll be satisfied sticking to your guns.  Since when is different a bad thing?  

We’ve been thrilled with the reception we’ve gotten in markets new to the Texas barbecue experience.  And, here in Texas, I’ve been wow’ed by brands not native to my town.  I’m a foodie like many people, which means I’m opened minded and willing to try new things.  I’m relieved to see many Americans feel the same way which is how we continue to grow and offer opportunities to new business owners. 

I think Forbes would be surprised to know that Washington is one of our fastest growing markets. I’m not sure all hipsters from Seattle would agree with Forbes.  I do know we’re dedicated to serving consistently great food and have been happy to meet the locals.