Franklin Barbecue - Art or Good Business

Last week KODA visited Franklin Barbecue. Having tried once before, but arriving way too late to be guaranteed food we opted out - determined to return another time at a more appropriate hour. This time we arrived at 07:15 with the vain hope that we would be first in the line. No chance - how about fortieth?!

Plenty of time for thinking

With the doors opening at 11:00, and forty people in front of us, there was plenty of time for thinking. This kind of time can be hard to come by in the modern world - no laptop, no tv, no work. I am crazy for craving that kind of boredom?! I don't think so.

The more time you spend there you realize how well designed the business is - it is designed for the sole purpose of doing what it does best. Now, I'm pretty sure that Franklin didn't sit down one week and plan everything out in detail, getting it right the first time. The ability to understand, respond to and grow with your customers is crucial. Franklin Barbecue started as a trailer, gradually growing to the humble size it is today, and, incidentally, Franklin has said the humble size is where it will remain.

Lessons Learnt

So what can other businesses learn from Franklin Barbecue? Three things stood out:

  1. Create virtuous cycles in your business: For instance, Franklin creates happy, excited, enthusiastic customers who want the trip to this restaurant to be an experience. The vibe is contagious, and genuine. Not long after you line up you make new friends and begin talking, swapping BBQ stories, explaining strategic eating tips and playing card games. For a little while, rumors start circulating about how early the people in the front of the queue got there. Soon enough, some one jumps up and asks. As they return you can see them triumphantly sharing the information with everyone they pass in the line. How early you ask? 06:15..!
    Ultimately you end up inviting them to join you at your table once you have your food. Spontaneous entertainment is created with no assistance from Franklin.
  2. Exclusiveness creates value: Franklin could easily get a bigger space and feed more people, but that's not what the business is about. The business is focused on quality, repeatability and customer satisfaction. That gets harder when you double down on your success. (We've seen it 'lick' other BBQ joints - local's might know what I mean.)
    One thing with BBQ is the long cooking time. There's a challenge in business called 'The Newsvendor Problem' which helps understand the question of how many newspapers to buy on any given day based on how much they cost, how many you expect to sell, and how much the supplier will buy them back from you for. With BBQ, if you can be sure of selling out of your perishable and expensive meat that you started cooking 16 hours ago, then you're off to a good start. Wikipedia states that Franklin has sold out of brisket every day since it opened. By not focusing solely on quantity, Franklin can focus on quality and customer experience.
  3. Manage expectations: Franklin knows that he is going to have to say 'no more food' at some point during the day. A couple of hours before service a member of staff starts to move through the line, asking people to estimate how much they're planning to order. This allows them to start to tell the people at the back of the line that they might want to consider their options. Having the courage and character to have this conversation is important. People who miss out, but are handled well, will come back and try again.

Hope you enjoyed this week's tasty topic. I'd love to hear from you all about other businesses you are impressed with and why.

As always, please like, share and follow. Until next time.