The coronavirus pandemic has redefined the world in so many ways, including the way people eat dinner.
With dine in available in a variety of capacity these days online ordering and curbside pickup have become the new normal in terms of takeaway service, but for many who are telecommuting to the office these days those extra thirty minutes to an hour that would have previously been spent in rush hour traffic have now turned into valuable time that can be used to prepare meals at home. But what about when you want that restaurant-quality flavor in your at-home cooking? For that, restaurants are turning to selling their signature items such as side dishes, seasonings, and sauces.
Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. and Chief Executive Officer Laura Rea Dickey have taken this idea to the next level. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit restaurants have already sold their trio of Original, Sweet, and Spicy barbecue sauces exclusively in their retail locations, but thanks to the latest partnership orchestrated by Dickey, customers will be able to pick a bottle alongside the rest of their groceries at over 2,000 Walmart stores across the country.
Currently the world’s largest barbecue franchise, after eighty years Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants is still a family-run business and it is clear why it has stood the test of time. The first restaurant was opened in Dallas, Texas in 1941, where World War I veteran Travis Dickey would work the block and his wife Ollie would serve up the sandwiches. In the late 1960’s, their sons Roland and T.D. took over the business and began focusing on expansion, taking their father’s legacy and growing it to multiple locations in the Dallas Fort Worth area. It soon became known in Texas both for its iconic Big Yellow cups and as a hickory-smoked barbecue staple for a quick bite and catered events, but it wasn’t until 1994 that the business first began franchising.
By 1998, the company saw its first location open outside of Texas in Colorado, and just seventeen years later it had reached 500 restaurants under the franchise. Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants have brought Texas barbecue not only across the country to 44 states, but also internationally with the company’s first international franchise opening in 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Through a business model of ensuring quality and consistency while also carefully pushing growth, the Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants brand has been able to see incredible results in a short period of time. Focus on location, recruiting the right owner-operators, and providing strong support have been key, with each new owner-operator attending “Barbecue U,” an intensive, two-week session where they learn how to run the restaurants from open to close.
Laura Rea Dickey began working for Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants in 2009. As Chief Information Officer, she established the company as a recognized technology leader in the restaurant industry through the development of proprietary big data and enterprise management systems. Working with her husband Roland Dickey Jr. who became Chief Executive Officer of the company in 2006, they made significant capital investments in information technology, marketing, advertising, construction, real estate management, logistics, accounting, and field operations support to ensure that they were able to scale operations favorably. In particular, Laura Dickey’s work in the intersection of technology and marketing has been commended, such as the development of a proprietary data platform called Smoke Stack. The innovative platform was profiled by Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, and she has won several business awards including being named one of Dallas Business Journal’s “Top Women in Technology” and was listed as one of Fast Casual Magazine’s “Top 25 Movers and Shakers” for four years in a row.
With the formation of Dickey’s Capital Group, Inc., a parent company for all businesses under the Dickey’s name, Roland Dickey Jr. transitioned to become Chief Executive Officer of the new entity and Laura Rea Dickey moved into the role of Chief Executive Officer of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. In the new role, Dickey has continued her focus on technology, pioneering the company’s third-party delivery program and being named one of the fifty most influential women in foodservice by Nations’ Restaurant News. This focus also poised the company to withstand the challenges that came in 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic. By reallocating the majority of their marketing spend to digital channels, investing in online ordering infrastructure, and redesigning the menu to encourage repeat purchases, the company was able to not only survive the pandemic, but even increase check counts and increase net same-store sales.
Now in 2021, Dickey is continuing to expand the company’s revenue opportunities with this latest offering through Walmart. The companies have been in partnership since 2016, when Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants began offering their famous kielbasa sausages in more than a thousand Walmart grocery stores. Since then, they have gone on to add barbecue beans to their offerings, and now a triple threat of sauces will be found on shelves and online next month. Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants has benefitted from strong leadership in its eighty years in business, a tradition that is being continued through Laura Rea Dickey. Although what the future holds for restaurant industry as a whole remains hazy, rest assured the Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants franchise will continue to innovate and play a big role in it.