Dickey’s Barbecue CEO Roland Dickey Jr., who’s grown the nation’s biggest barbecue restaurant from 20 stores to 538, is cooking up plans to expand next year into Asia. After opening a projected 72 stores in 2015, the third-generation restaurateur has set his sights on Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, where he says there’s “absolutely” an appetite for the barbecue fare his grandfather began selling in Dallas in 1941.
“If we don’t get it going, somebody else will,” Dickey said of the international move during an interview Wednesday in Palm Springs, California.
Dickey is one of about 75 business people from Dallas attending the EY Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs this week. In June, the 41-year-old was named the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 in the “family business” category for the Southwest Area North region. National winners of the competition will be announced at an EY awards banquet at the Strategic Growth Forum on Saturday.
In the interview, Dickey said his Dallas-based company is the nation’s largest fast-casual barbecue chain by far, with franchisees running all but seven of its 538 restaurants in 43 states. Revenue is projected to hit $502 million this year, up from $428 million last year, he said.
The company relies on “energy, speed, and great barbecue” in its operations—”that’s the gasoline in your tank,” he said—and spends much of its time recruiting and retaining the right employees. “I’d rather be short-handed than bad-handed,” Dickey said.
The biggest challenge in a “very dynamic industry” is constantly improving the company’s systems, he said. “We’ve said, let’s continually find new things to do. So we’ve overhauled our training systems, added technology, improved our cooking methods. … Now we’re focused on taking our business and making it great.”