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Will Dallas Morning News Correct This Bogus Dickey’s Franchise Story?

According to the Dallas Morning News, Laura Rea Dickey is more than the owner’s wife.  She’s a Master’s Degree-wielding tech Goddess who has empowered humble Dickey’s franchise owners with the power of Big Data, enabled them to see what’s working throughout the 565-unit system, and fine-tune their operation and optimize their marketing in real-time without leaving their barbecue pits!  If the Pulitzer Prize Committee adds a Fake News category this year, Dallas Morning News has our vote!

(UnhappyFranchisee.Com)   by Sean Kelly  The Dallas Morning News published the latest Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise propaganda piece, authored by Business Columnist Cheryl Hall, entitled,  Making the cut: Streamlining Dickey’s Barbecue helped daughter-in-law’s rise to CEO .

Ms. Cheryl Hall did an amazing job combining a near-record number of questionable representations and outright false statements with the fantastical representation of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Big Data tech wizardry.  The owner’s wife, Laura Rea Dickey, plays both the role of CEO and (despite having no tech experience) tech wonder woman in this compelling story.

As entertaining as this bit of franchise propaganda is, I must be the spoil-sport who reminds Ms. Hall that Dallas Morning News is still supposed to resemble a news source and its writers are still supposed to, at least, make a passing stab at the truth.

We have asked Cheryl Hall to revisit what we suspect are “alternative facts” included in her piece, such as the “torrid” expansion of Dickey’s in 2017, the academic credentials and accomplishments attributed to CEO Laura Rea Dickey, and the technical tools allegedly provided to Dickey’s franchise owners.

Invitation:  We invite any individual or company discussed on UnhappyFranchisee.Com to provide rebuttals, clarifications or alternative points of view for publication.  In this case, we have contacted both Dallas Morning News and Dickey’s management to share their side of the story.  These are my opinions stated here, submitted for discussion and debate.  SK


Dickey’s Unit Growth (And Success) is Misrepresented

Cheryl Hall wrote: “Last year, Dickey’s opened 87 restaurants, bringing the total to 508 at year end, and it reported systemwide sales of $421 million.  As of last week, there were 565 Dickey’s stores with another 109 in the pipeline.”

However, Dickey’s reported that it passed the 508 location mark all the way back in May, 2015 and had 544 in May 2016.

This press release from February 2017 states that Dickey’s “has expanded to more than 600 locations in 44 states.“

Dallas News writer Cheryl Hall’s wrote that Dickey’s only had 508 locations at the beginning of 2017 and 565 by July, 2017.  However, Dickey’s Franchise Disclosure Documents (FDDs) state its unit count as follows:

May 31, 2012:  230

May 31, 2013:  300

May 31, 2014:  417

May 31, 2015:  508

May 31, 2016:  544

A company press release stated that Dickey’s had “more than 600 locations” in February, 2017.

Is Dickey’s trying to hide its many franchise failures?

Ms. Hall stated that Dickey’s is in “torrid expansion mode.”  However, Dickey’s reported having 544 locations in May, 2016 and Ms. Hall stated that Dickey’s had 565 as of July, 2017.

A net gain of 21 stores in 14 months hardly seems “torrid.”

Question for Cheryl Hall:  Where did you get the information that Dickey’s only had 508 locations at the beginning of 2017? 

If Dickey’s opened 87 stores last year, what would account for them only having a net gain of 20 locations in the past 14 months?

Hint #1:  DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Closed Location List

Hint #2:  DICKEY’S Franchise Graveyard


Dickey’s Ownership Transition Appears to be Misrepresented

Cheryl Hall wrote:  Roland Dickey, Sr.’s “side of the clan bought out Martha Dickey, widow of his brother, T.D., after his death in 2011.”

Our research indicates that this is a false statement and that the widow of T.D. Dickey owned 50% of the Dickey’s corporation (DBRI) until well into 2016.  Martha Dickey resides in Dallas County, Texas, and as of January, 2016 owned twenty-five percent of DBRI individually and another twenty-five percent as the Trustee of an entity known as the Dickey Bypass Trust.

Question for Cheryl Hall:  What is the source for the statement that Martha Dickey sold her ownership shares in 2011?  We’d like to compare with our research documentation.


Did Laura Rea Dickey Earn a Master’s Degree from TCU in 2003?

Cheryl Hall wrote that Dickey’s CEO Laura Rea Dickey’s education includes:  “Bachelor’s degree in philosophy and master’s degree in communication, Texas Christian University, 2001 and 2003.”

An anonymous source claims that Ms. Dickey did not earn a master’s degree from Texas Christian University.  We checked the commencement programs from TCU for 2001 and 2003 and confirmed that Laura Rea received a bachelor’s degree in 2001.  However, there was no mention of a Laura Rea receiving a master’s degree in 2003.

Texas Christian University has a record of a Laura B. Rea who graduated in 2001 with a BS from the College of Communications with a major in Advertising/Public Relations and a minor in Philosophy.  There is no record of a Laura Rea obtaining a Master’s degree in 2003 or any other year.

Question submitted to Dallas News writer Cheryl Hall:  What is your source for the statement that Dickey’s CEO Laura Rea Dickey received a Master’s degree from Texas Christian University in 2003?  We can find no record of it.

Laura Rea Dickey’s “Rise to CEO Story” Seems Problematic, if Not Fabricated

Cheryl Hall wrote that, in 2008, “Roland Jr., who was president of the barbecue business, asked Laura to step to the family plate. She’d been doing strategic planning, data analysis and marketing for clients of The Point Group, and he wanted her to bring her expertise to shore up Dickey’s and then some.”

However, according to Dickey’s FDDs, Laura didn’t join the company until May, 2010.  From May, 2010 until she was named Chief Intelligence Officer in May, 2015, Ms. Dickey “served in various temporary management positions in the Dickey’s training, marketing, and information technology departments.”  There is no mention of her being in a management or executive role in any FDD prior to 2015.

The number of Dickey’s stores Cheryls Hall says were open in 2008 also seems at odds with the company’s official documents.

Cheryl Hall wrote:  “Dickey’s was blowing and going, having just passed the 130-store milestone in 2008…”

According to the Dickey’s franchise disclosure filings, the chain had nowhere near 130 stores in 2008 and didn’t reach that “milestone” until 2011.  Here are the total units reported by the company at the end of each fiscal year (May 31) for that time period:

  • 2008:  87
  • 2009:  107
  • 2010:  117
  • 2011:  134

Question submitted to Dallas News writer Cheryl Hall:  What is your source for the statement that Dickey’s had 130 locations open in 2008?  Company records indicate otherwise.

Laura Rea Dickey’s “Eight Year Roadmap” is Unclear

Cheryl Hall wrote:

“In her previous role as Dickey’s chief information officer, she built an eight-year road map for bringing the family’s slow-smoked barbecue business into the lightning-speed digital age…”

She states that Ms. Dickey is now “Four years into it…”

However, according to Dickey’s Franchise Disclosure Documents, Ms. Dickey was appointed Chief Intelligence Officer in May, 2015 – 2.5 years ago.

According to the Dickey’s 2015 & 2016 Franchise Disclosure Documents (FDDs):  “Chief Intelligence Officer: Laura Rea Dickey  In May 2015, Ms. Dickey was appointed as the Chief Intelligence Officer for Dickey’s. Since May 2010, Ms. Dickey has served in various temporary management positions in the Dickey’s training, marketing, and information technology departments.”  There is no disclosure of Ms. Dickey as an executive or manager in FDDs prior to 2015.

Question for Cheryl Hall: Can you please clarify this statement?   How could she be four years into an eight-year plan that she only began drafting two and a half years ago?

*  (Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. seems to be rewriting Ms. Dickey’s history with the company, as her bio on the website and in press releases now states that she “served as Chief Information Officer for eight years, and made the transition to CEO after excelling in her previous position.”  This is not consistent with the company’s franchise disclosure filings.)

Are Dickey’s Technological Accomplishments Overstated?

In a paragraph naming Dickey’s technological innovations, Cheryl Hall wrote:  “Customers can order online and have their food delivered by third-party services, such as Grubhub and Doordash. Come September, a customer app will use beaconing technology so that you can pick up your order curbside without getting out of your car.”

Question for Cheryl Hall:  How is signing up with Grubhub and Doordash, which are widely available 3rd party services used even by single-unit sandwich and pizza shops, a testament to Dickey’s technological innovation?  Is this noteworthy?

Dickey’s Franchisees Claim The Article Misrepresents Their Access to Sales & Marketing Data

Cheryl Hall wrote: 

“Four years into it, every restaurant operator can tap into point-of-sale analytics, study data heat maps and market directly to customers via the proprietary Smoke Stack system that Dickey’s co-developed* with iOlap, a Frisco-based big data provider… Dickey’s and franchisees can spot on the spot what’s working in the 565 stores and what’s not to make adjustments on the fly.”

In response to this description, one Dickey’s franchisee wrote:

“Everyone knows this is BS and can be proven by all there FD’s. They did not want us to know what other stores were doing…. They shared what they wanted us to know about other stores. I and other owners are just now getting updates to tickets that were submitted over 1.5 to 2 years ago that are still unresolved, stating it’s been now assigned to someone…. There’s documentation that can dispute all the accolades they’re giving her credit for!!”

Another Dickey’s franchisee wrote:

“Smokestack is a very slow and bad written front end on a very powerful data base (yellowfin)> [Dickey’s] IT department screwed with it so much that all that came out was just BS. And what is this all about marketing? There was never ever a part in Smokestack that allowed us to check marketing data.”

Another Dickey’s franchise owner wrote:

“Real time my A**! Not a chance of this with such crappy bandwidth in the stores and with over 500 stores that you have overloaded the yellowfin server.”

Another said:

“Real time does not exist for store level data.”

A Dickey’s franchisee responded to a pervasive internal view that Laura Rea Dickey is wholly unqualified for her job, and that Dickey’s finds it sufficient to pretend it has capabilities it does not:

“Laura Rea Dickey is not qualified to be a technical executive. She simply doesn’t even know the basics.  She is merely a shameless con-artist try to grasp and use every bit of high-tech jargon to pretend she is a high tech person.  What she is doing is making a mockery of those female engineers who actually work in that field. Highly insulting.”

A Dickey’s franchise owner added:

The funny part is that this REALLY explains why smokestack, TIB, aloha OLO, spark OLO all failed miserably. i.e. result of Laura the clueless trying to play tech god. If it’s that easy, no one would need to get a computer science degree. companies like Oracle and such would be all out of business.

* Technically, Dickey’s did not co-develop Smokestack nor is Smokestack Dickey’s’ proprietary technology. Smokestack is proprietary to Dickey’s affiliate Spark Intelligence, Inc. which is a separate company and requires a separate agreement and fees.  The statement “every restaurant operator can tap into point-of-sale analytics…” is also not true, as only franchise operators who sign an agreement with Spark Intelligence and pay a monthly subscription fee can tap into this system.

Also read:

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Franchise Posts (ALL)

DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Closed Location List

DICKEY’S Franchise Graveyard

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

DICKEY’S Franchise Owners Share Frustrations & Fears

DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Franchise Complaints



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