O Canada: Dallas-Based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is Going Global

The "largest barbecue chain in the world" is about to get even bigger with its first-time international expansions. It's blazing new trails, making capital investments in things like information technology, real estate, and logistics.

Founded 77 years ago in Dallas, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has officially made itself an international name.

With nearly 600 stores, Dickey’s Barbecue pit is the “world’s largest barbecue chain,” and they are on a mission to make sure that the world tastes Texas barbecue done right.

This week, Dickey’s announced that it would be expanding into 20 locations in various cities across Canada: Edmonton, Alberta, Calgary, Alberta, Regina, Saskatchewan, and Saskatoon. This is the first time the BBQ franchise has migrated onto Canadian soil, with a predicted landing of early 2019.

The news follows Dickey’s first international debut made earlier this month at the Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi. The Middle East-based Dickey’s restaurants will be operated by Serenity Hospitality, an Abu Dhabi-based hospitality group in the food and drink sector, which has later plans to operate franchises in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Lebanon. That’s a lot of barbecue. 

“Consumer confidence continues to increase, and people are willing to let others handle the cooking,” CEO of Dickey’s Capital Group, Roland Dickey, Jr., said in a statement. “The fact that Dickey’s is able to expand at this rate internationally without taking any private equity is a testament to hardworking Dickey’s franchisees, both nationally and internationally, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit commitment to quality, and to our ability to find the right partners.”

The international restaurant features an open kitchen, so the designated Pit Masters are able to show customers what flavorful concoctions they’re cooking. Pit Masters are all trained in the same way and still use some family recipes, cooking all of their meats slowly (14 hours for smoked beef, to be exact) at a low temperature overnight at every location.

The Abu Dhabi menu has been customized for the overseas location — with new dishes like beef ribs, beef sausages, and smoked lamb — but the chefs were trained in the U.S., so Dickey’s favorites will still be served up. Dickey’s said that three state-of-the-art hickory wood smokers have all been imported from the U.S. to ensure the taste of Texas barbecue was authentic, even in the Middle East. And, Dickey’s won’t be the lone taste of Texas at the three-story Yas Mall, as other Dallas-based chains like Texas de Brazil, Chili’s, and Which Wich have locations there, too.

World domination

The chain restaurant was founded and is still owned by the Dickey family, with their original location off Knox/Henderson and North Central Expressway still in commission today. Dickey’s prides itself in being a family run business, and all of their locations have a Texas feel. Each year, the restaurant franchise says it goes through over 10 million pounds of brisket, but with the massive expansion, that number is about to go up even more. In addition to Canada and the Middle East, Dickey’s is expecting to open six new locations this month across the U.S., including Hawaii for the first time. 

In 2010, Dickey’s had their sights set on conquering the country — but, back then, the company owned seven stores and oversaw 119 franchisees in a total of 22 states. Roland Dickey Sr. and Jr. spoke with D Magazine on their plans to grow across the nation, one store at a time. The countrywide push was prepared carefully and tediously, with significant capital investments made in information technology, marketing, advertising, construction, real estate management, logistics, accounting, and field operations support.

“A company is either growing or shrinking,” Dickey Jr. told D. “We’re blazing new trails. No one has ever done what we’re doing.” 

But initially, there was hesitation about a national presence, with Dickey Sr. asking if Dickey Jr. was “insane” when the idea was proposed. As a large, nationwide chain, the Dickeys wanted to keep their ‘soul,’ so they focused on location and recruiting and supporting the right owner-operators. The goal in 2010? To reach 500 stores.

Dickey Jr. had his sights set on one thing: “World domination, one store at a time.”

Now, nearly a decade later, the fast-casual concept has done it — garnering around 520 locations, worldwide.

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