What is Dickey’s trying to do now?
Dickey’s now has 519 locations in the US, with new stores opening every month across the country. Last year, they went international, opening two outposts in the UAE (next stop: Brazil). For some competitor context, the next biggest barbecue chain in America is Minnesota-based Famous Dave’s with 134, though that number is shrinking; Sonny’s BBQ out of Florida has roughly 100, followed by Maryland’s Mission BBQ with 80 locations and Bill Miller Bar-B-Q at 75. Except for Mission, which started in 2011, most of those other barbecue chains are legacy joints, which aren’t so much growing as in holding patterns. And the ones that are growing are mostly growing one by one in a very regional and careful way.
In growing, Dickey’s has modernized the decor in its newer, post-2015 stores -- no wagon wheel chandeliers, no soft-serve ice cream machine, but still yes to illustrations of truck drivers wearing Dickey’s trucker hats and mutton chops over the phrase “serving real barbecue to real folks since 1941." They’ve embraced “cloud and Big Data tools” in devising a system called Smoke Stack, which basically analyzes the menu items selling at each store and figures out how to keep inventory tight based on five different metrics and, according to a Wall Street Journal story I read, lots of business-school words.
It has also launched a cookbook and line of retail goods (sauces, rubs, sausages, canned beans, 18 TYPES OF HICKORY PELLETS and, from a business standpoint, finds itself in that familiar baseball relief-pitcher mode: hold the lead, and try not to give up too much ground as you try and run out the game for their competitors. Or to use another, equally confusing metaphor -- they’re in the final stages of Stratego, and have surrounded their opponents' flag, so their mission is now to find said flag without running into too many bombs. Though if they were Stratego masters like myself, they would deploy their miners to dismantle said bombs by teaming them up with colonels in a classic two--pronged tandem atta -- wait, what was I talking about again?