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DICKEY’S Franchise Issues: Menu Management

Dickey’s franchise owners can anonymously share their views with franchisor DBRI on the new menu, menu management and other important issues through the Letters to Dickey’s Program.  Is the new G4 menu to blame for the recent glut of store closures?

(UnhappyFranchisee.Com) Dickey’s Barbecue Pit suffered a significant number of franchise closures in late 2016 and early 2017.

Franchisees and readers have added more than 25 closures to our DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Closed Location List for just December 2016 through February, 2017.

At least one franchise owner who suffered store closures blames the new “G4” menu that franchisor Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. rolled out in the summer of 2016, as well as the change from US Foods to SYSCO.  He/she stated:

There are key struggles at both the franchisor/franchisee levels in our area.  Many of the complaints we have read on your site we can also confirm.

The closings at year end 2016 can best be explained by the G4 menu change/CSP  and SYSCO vendor change in late fall/early winter of 2016 that significantly harmed stores that did not have the foot traffic or sales volume to sustain the changes.

I can recall thinking that these changes would wipe out those units with slower sales or units in smaller markets… and they certainly did.

RE: Menu Changeover – Launched July 2016

Dickey’s multi-unit franchisee wrote:

Our businesses took a huge hit with the new, mandatory menu that DBRI rolled out. Prior to launch, franchisees previewed the new menu and gave clear feedback that the new menu was poorly designed and would likely be poorly received by guests. Franchisees urged DBRI to go back to the drawing board and roll out a simpler and clearer version. DBRI ignored this feedback, focusing instead on their own independent research (which was obtained from a group that doesn’t even represent our target audience) and DBRI launched the new menu anyway. The results have been horrendous. Constant complaints and a marked, immediate decline in sales followed the launch of the new menu system wide.

A multi-unit Dickey’s franchise owner wrote:

90% of what we serve now is different than when we opened 2 years ago.

All the sides have different recipes/flavor, meat rubs are different, rolls are different, chips have changed twice, menu has been completely overhauled (for the worse).

One thing about the menu change this year is that they told us the new menu change had COGS around 32-33% at the stores that were already on it.

After we change our menu they tell us that it is that low because those stores no longer have free ice cream and fried items. So instead of going down, COGS went up.

Another Dickey’s franchisee wrote:

No one likes the menu changes. They find it confusing (Especially older people)  Menu changing had a huge impact on us. No one in our area wants sliders or tacos. They don’t come to a BBQ restaurant for that. Getting rid of the DOTD [Deal of the Day] was huge, and breaking up the plates. We saw a drop in regular customers because they were too confused by the menus.

Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken! People NEED and want consistency.

You cannot make changes that effect thousands (Yes thousands when you factor in families) without consulting them first. No one wanted the vendor change, no one wanted tacos, no one wanted new menus, no one wanted the change in marketing.   Everything is test marketed in the Dallas Area, just because it passes there does not mean everyone EVERYWHERE is going to like it.

A Dickey’s franchise owner wrote:

New menu sucks…  I did not buy a $1 menu franchise or a taco stand I bought a BBQ restaurant!!  What’s on the agenda for next quarter?  Sushi?

A Dickey’s franchise owner wrote:

They rolled out the new menu in July 2016

I also lost (I calculated  $26k) when we switched to Dickeys new menu and i used their “corporate suggested pricing” which according to their calculations I should be able to hit a 32% food cost. With their pricing my food costs were 55-60% and before the new menu I was running roughly 34-36% food cost. when I asked them about this they told me I was a bad owner and didn’t know how to control my costs.

An upset Dickey’s franchisee complained:

The corporate office did a promotion for smoked chickens but the radio advertising was for pulled pork so we never sold the chickens but our corporate office agreed to buy a certain amount of chickens from the manufacturer so they just auto shipped everyone another case of chickens so they wouldn’t be stuck with the cost. and we werent allowed to return the case of chickens. Also our price on the chickens were much higher that what we were originally told. We are also required to buy and sell holiday meals every year which in 5 years i have never sold all my product and basically break even based on the product i dont sell.

Still another Dickey’s franchisee wrote:

Customers are asking for one, two and three meat plates. Dickeys will only go back to the one meat plate. Why don’t they do the full job and satisfy the customers requests and include a two and three meat plate on the menu?  Why do they have deaf ears to the market needs?

Promos are only based in tacos and sliders.  Why promote low cost items? They should try to upsale, not down sale with $2 items. Also…. Are tacos the flagship of a Barbecue pit? I dont think so. Them why we promote them month after month?

Also, having different menus on the different formats of stores confuses the customers.  They get mad when they request something that is unavailable in a G4 (ie: fried items, ice cream, etc).



Franchisee wrote:

What I have a HUGE problem with is Corporate forcing you to buy certain things even though it’s not selling, so we’re stuck with the waste.

Every year, Corporate makes a push for us to sell these holiday meals – Smoked Turkey, Cajun Fried Turkey, Cornbread Dressing, Hams, etc.  About 3-4 months before the holiday, they ask us if we want to make changes to our order but they will only actually let us  increase our order, which they have already set for us.  For example this Thanksgiving year they forced shipped 2 cases Smoked, 4 cases Cajun, 3 cases dressing, 1 case Ham & 1 case of Prime Rib.  I sold about 25% of my product on hand and they will be force shipping another case of each at Xmas time.  These aren’t cheap products either, it seems like we could get these cheaper from the grocery store – after all, they are pre-cooked frozen butterball turkeys, which we take out of butterball packaging and re-wrap – our base cost before any paper/sauce for a Cajun Turkey is about $34 dollars.  The margins on these products are worse than anything else we sell and if we’re donating or throwing out 75% of them, it’s a huge loss.  I’ve attached a screenshot showing my request to decrease, which I received no response to and when I tell my Area Manager I need to decrease it, he said we can’t, we can only increase.  They do this for Easter too, with Hams that don’t sell.  Not as big of a loss, but definitely a loss.

Another franchisee wrote:

Another example of where they force product on us recently (and horrible margins) is a recent LTO product – whole chickens (1st or 2nd quarter of 2016).  Corporate made a huge push for this whole smoked chicken product which was a failure with every owner I spoke to.  If a store was not ordering a case of these overpriced chickens within a certain amount of time, they would force ship them to the store.  The advertising push for these was $9.99, but with our base cost per chicken being about $5.50, it was a waste of time and money.  You smoke 2-3 chickens per day and if you end up wasting any it’s a loss.  After paper, rub, sauce, dickey’s 9%, CC fees, I estimated an owners profit on 1 whole chicken to be less than $2 dollars.  That’s only if you don’t waste any and at the beginning of this promo we wasted enough to where it was a total loss regardless of whether or not we limited how much we smoked going forward.



Another franchisee wrote:

DBRI rolled out a new menu item called a Butcher Taco. This item launched before any supporting media arrived. This new item also launched before the product to make it had arrived. When product did arrive, the auto-shipped quantities were nowhere near aligned with business needs, resulting in forced over purchasing and waste.

DBRI has changed the recipe on the majority of our entire menu in a very short window of time. This has caused guests to complain about not knowing what to expect when they come in our restaurants. Customers recently rejected DBRI’s new recipe for Mac & Cheese, which was by far our most popular side item.

A Dickey’s franchise owner wrote:

Most of the stores are going to a slightly different menu.  As such we have to purchase in store menus for around $1k..

The kicker is stores have to purchase new menus in a couple of months with calorie content.

Again another $1k. That tells me Dickeys is in the menu business now.

I suspect that this is not incompetence on their part but a well conceived plan.

In my opinion, they literally try to extract every dime out of owner/operators.

LETTERS TO DICKEY’S is a collaborative, interactive series that invites Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise owners to candidly (and anonymously) tell their franchisor (DBRI) what they think and how they feel about the the franchise issues and challenges facing them. 

Dickey's Barbecue PitDickey’s franchisees are invited to share their opinions on the topics most important to them by sending a confidential email to UnhappyFranchisee[at], or posting a comment below. 

This post is dedicated to DBRI’s menu management decisions, and their effect on Dickey’s franchisees’ businesses.

If you would like to read or add comments on other issues, please go to:

DICKEY’S Franchise Owners: Tell DBRI Your Biggest Concerns, Anonymously

You can also view and provide input on these issue-specific pages:

Dickey’s Online Ordering

Dickey’s Marketing Support

Dickey’s Menu Changes & Menu Management

Dickey’s Switch to Sysco

Dickey’s Threats, Bullying & Churning of Franchisees

This page is a work-in-progress.  We have posted comments from anonymous Dickey’s franchisees and will continue to update it as we receive new comments.


Also read:

DICKEY’S Franchise Owners: Tell DBRI Your Biggest Concerns, Anonymously

DICKEY’S Franchise Issues: Switch from U.S. Foods to SYSCO

Letter to DICKEY’S President Renee Roozen re: Withheld Marketing Report

DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Closed Location List

DICKEY’S Franchise Owners Share Frustrations & Fears

DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Franchise Complaints

DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Makes a Terrible Promotion Worse

Dickey’s “The Middle” Family Reunion Sweepstakes Contest Details

Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants Inc. Threatening to Sue U.S. Army Veteran



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