Fast-food BBQ restaurant could compete with Famous Dave's in DuluthTexas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, the fastest growing barbecue restaurant chain in the country, is coming to Duluth. If a Canal Park site is chosen, it could pit Dickey’s against Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que, already in Canal Park.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
Texas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, the fastest growing barbecue restaurant chain in the country, is coming to Duluth.
A franchise for a Dickey’s restaurant in Duluth was awarded recently to a Chippewa Falls, Wis., man.
“We’re just getting the ball rolling. We just signed the agreement,” said Butch Berg, who will be the owner and operator. “We’re working with a real estate team to find locations. Right now, we’re just seeing what’s open. Hopefully, we can find a building quickly.”
Berg, 29, hopes to have the business up and running by the end of the year.
“I’m really excited about it,” he said.
He is looking for a building that previously was used as a restaurant or as a retail store that can be converted at a reasonable cost. Considerations will include the site’s traffic count and surrounding population. He mentioned Superior Street and Canal Park as possibilities.
If a Canal Park site is chosen, it could pit Dickey’s against Famous Dave’s
Bar-B-Que, already in Canal Park.
“I’m not worried at all,” said Mike Hanson, manager of Famous Dave’s. “We
welcome the competition. We stand by our barbecue. It’s the best barbecue and service in town.”
He noted that while Famous Dave’s menu prices are higher than Dickey’s,
Famous Dave’s at 355 Lake Ave. S. is a full-service restaurant with servers while Dickey’s has fast-food counter service.
“Every day we open our restaurant, we’re competing for people’s hard-earned money,” said Famous Dave’s general manager Greg Toon. “Competition is competition, whether it’s barbecue or any other business
But the two chains have much in common. While Dickey’s is a fast, casual restaurant and Famous Dave’s is sit-down, both chains hickory smoke their meat overnight, slow southern-style. While Famous Dave’s is big in
Minnesota, Dickey’s is big in Texas.
“It just gives people an option,” Dickey’s spokeswoman Amy Vercher said of the chain’s Midwest expansion. “People may crave one (brand) one day, another on another day. It’s just nice to have that variety. We don’t want to close down any place that has been there forever.”
Dickey’s signature meals — which typically cost $7 to $11 — include beef brisket, Southern pulled pork, pork ribs and the choice of two sides made fresh daily and a roll and tangy barbecue sauce. The restaurants offer free soft-serve ice cream, free jumbo pickles and, on Sundays, kids eat free.
Dickey’s is growing fast and is on track to become the biggest barbecue chain in the country by year’s end.
While Famous Dave’s has about 55 stores in 37 states, Dickey’s has more, with 175 stores in 35 states.
A family-run business, Dickey’s opened its first restaurant in Dallas in 1941, exactly 70 years ago this month. In 1969, it began opening additional stores. In 1994, the company started its franchising program. And in recent years, its growth took off. In its expansion to Minnesota, it so far has franchises in nine cities, with five more coming soon, including Duluth.
“In the past year, we’ve had a huge push to reach 200 stores by the end of 2011,” Vercher said. “It’s just a culmination of all of our efforts. We’ve been gearing up for all these locations. There’s a need for it. There’s not many quick-serve barbecue restaurants. It’s very well received in many communities, not just in Texas or any state famous for barbecue.”
Like Duluth, Eau Claire, Wis., had a Famous Dave’s when Dickey’s recently opened a restaurant there.
Jason Lierman and Melissa Faschingbauer, who live in Eau Claire, say they haven’t tried it yet because they like Famous Dave’s so much.
“I stick with my Famous Dave’s,” Faschingbauer said Friday during a visit to Duluth. “I like their barbecue sauce.”
But Lierman predicted that, like Eau Claire, there will be a buzz about the new Dickey’s when it opens in Duluth, simply because it will be new.
When it opens, Berg, who is currently a welder, will be new to running a restaurant. His restaurant experience is limited to working for them during high school, but he recently earned a bachelor’s degree in business management. He has hired a restaurant manager, and both will attend the Dickey’s franchise training program in Texas.
The idea for the franchise came after a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit restaurant opened in Chippewa Falls. Berg liked the food and the setup. That, combined with his longtime desire to move north, led to his seeking the franchise in Duluth.
“I have always liked the area. I think that it would be fun to live there,” he said. “I’m a big outdoors person. I like to kayak and fish, and Duluth is good for that. And I’m an avid snowboarder.”
Franchise fees for Dickey’s run from $10,000 to $15,000, with a total initial investment ranging from $38,000 to nearly $400,000, according to company summaries.
In Duluth, Berg thinks Dickey’s will have an edge because people are in a hurry these days, and Dickey’s offers comfort food that people can get quickly to take home. He also hopes to give back to the community by sometimes donating a percentage of proceeds to charities, such as the local animal humane society and the American Cancer Society. Such charitable efforts are encouraged by the Dickey’s corporation.