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Dickey's Barbecue Pit Unveils Lean New Layout


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Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is celebrating the first week of a radically redesigned new restaurant layout in Dallas.

Roland Dickey Jr. says the fourth-generation model has taken most of the year to develop, design and build.

“We’ve spent the better part of this year really designing the concept store that we want that we thought would be the perfect combination of focus, simplicity, energy and what would appeal to the next generation of consumers without alienating the older generation,” said Dickey.

He said if the first week is any indication, the new layout will prove to be a money maker for operators.

“There’s still minor tweaking happening, but we’ve got a line out the door every day,” said Dickey.

The new store design strips out barriers, creating a spacious-feeling 1,000-square-foot dining area. A new straightforward food line replaces of the somewhat serpentine mix of service, condiments soda and free ice cream the restaurants had for in the past. Unisex bathrooms keep restroom lines moving as well.

Simplicity was rule No. 1 for the back of the house as well. Dickey said they stripped their old design “down to the studs.” Going forward, there will be a lot fewer appliances and fewer operational costs. Linen, for example, is cut out completely in favor of disposable cleaning towels and their new proprietary wood pellets are much more efficient. The new design also won’t have any need for gas since everything is powered by those pellets.

“No linen, no gas, 80% less wood, no ice cream, no fryer, just fast moving items and a smaller kitchen,” said Dickey. “It needs less people, less everything. We’ve got to maximize return for our owner operators. We strongly believe that we’re on the right track to do that.”

For anyone who might be thinking, “No more free ice cream!?” You’re not alone.

But Dickey said that removing the iconic dessert will ultimately be a boon for restaurant operators and isn’t going to drive any customers away.

“We got rid of our free ice cream. A lot of people have questioned that,” said Dickey. “I’ll be honest with you, it’s not part of our core values.”

He said a new range of desserts will be a welcome change.

“What we did do is start selling a couple really good desserts right around the corner by the POS--inexpensively,” said Dickey. “And we started selling a lot of desserts, we didn’t used to sell many because free ice cream cannibalized all that.”

One other addition has also helped drive sales.

“We added a Coke Freestyle machine,” said Dickey. “Oh my God, the soft drink sales have just doubled.”

Those two additions, however, are the only new things in the updated layout.  The largest cuts were in the kitchen.

“The store revolves around a barbecue pit, one piece of equipment,” said Dickey. “We used to have a whole lot more pieces of heating equipment: ranges, stock pot range, ovens, we just got rid of all that.”

All the meats and the sides come from the same source now. With the stripped own kitchen, of course, comes a stripped down menu. Gone are many legacy items and many standards like fries, fried okra and onion tangles that just weren’t moving as fast as popular core items. The entire menu is down to just 100 SKUs.

Their menu strategy has changed drastically too, throwing away a range of price points along with the ice cream machine. Instead of “plates” that featured a meat and two sides, all meats are sold by the half pound with flat-fee plate up-sale options.

“By selling by the half pound, instead of having these $11-$13 price points, you’re seeing $7, $8, $8.95,” said Dickey. “So from the consumer standpoint, you’re seeing much smaller prices.”

For operators, the slim menu, fast-moving menu means inventory is much easier to manage and there is a faster turn for everything. Costs are down too. At another small-scale airport layout that helped inspire the new store, food and goods costs came in “several points lower than what our model was,” said Dickey.

For employees, that means they never have to run around the kitchen to keep the food moving, though at just 500-square feet, there's not much room to run.

“We designed it so none of our crew members need to leave the line, everything is there,” said Dickey.

Hanging shelves, and easy-to-reach prep block means cooks can move the line more efficiently.

“Our standard is two minutes from order to pay,” said Dickey. “When you take any barbecue meats like sliced brisket, as soon as you slice into it, it starts to oxidize. So if your team has to leave the line to go drop something in the fryer, that slows down the service and your throughput.”

The new 1,500-square-foot stores come in at the low range for construction--$300,000 where previous 2,000-square-foot stores ranged up to $350,000 or more.

Dickey said that operators who have seen the new concept have high praise.

All new construction will be in the new format, and operators at Dickey’s

Barbecue Pit’s 520 locations with older layouts will have the option to fully refurbish their stores or pick and choose fourth-generation elements. Despite the additional investments, he said franchisees are eager to get started and already have several of the new layouts under development.

“When you can draw that kind of attention and demand for people to invest their hard-earned dollars voluntarily versus some big corporate requirement, it shows you that you’ve done something right,” said Dickey. “So that’s what were really excited about.”

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
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