DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT: Will Dickey’s Survive COVID-19 Coronavirus?

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and its leader Roland Dickey Jr. are in panic mode, according to leaks from company insiders.  It’s rumored that Dickey’s’ dropping store count could trigger onerous terms imposed by its lender, Wells Fargo.  Dickey’s corporate employees continue to report abusive and unprofessional behavior and impossible demands from Roland Dickey, Jr. and his management team.  Could the high-turnover Dickey’s franchise scheme soon go up in smoke? 

Unfortunately, one of the worst and most abusive bullies in franchising (in our opinion) is getting worse and more abusive.

Dickey’s insiders report that the Dickey family is feeling intense pressure, and is raining down abusive treatment on employees and franchise owners as it fights for survival.

Note that the information and opinions in the quotations are provided by anonymous third-parties and have not been independently corroborated.

We ask our readers to investigate these allegations further, and report their opinions and findings to us in the comment section below.

Insiders Allege Dickey’s Wells Fargo Loan Terms Tied to Store Count

We have long heard rumors that Roland Dickey Jr. had a tyrannical and near desperate insistence on maintaining a store count of 500+ (or at least maintaining the appearance of 500+ operational stores) due to the fact that terms of their loan with Wells Fargo was dependent on Dickey’s maintaining the size of its franchised network.

We’ve heard rumors that the interest on the massive financing package would increase if the number of stores decreased.

Other rumors allege that if store count dips below a certain threshhold, Wells Fargo has the power to take operational control and appoint its own CEO.

We haven’t seen any documentation or first-hand account of these financing stipulations.

Recently, we have again heard this allegation from yet another anonymous source:

When Travis Dickey, Sr. passed away, the company was put into Roland’s hands.

However other family members fought this and Roland took out a significant loan from Wells Fargo to pay them off and make them go away silently (since they had been showing up at the office to cause a scene.  Roland even hired outside security to keep these family members our of the office).

That loan was contingent on a certain number of stores staying open, and the interest rate on that loan fluctuates based on the store count (of open stores).  Therefore when stores close and Wells Fargo does a store count, the less number of restaurants that are open, the higher the interest rate goes on the loan.  This is why Dallas goes into panic mode whenever a store closes (the direction given to the field is “by any means necessary, get that store open, even if it’s just you (a corporate employee) working there”.

Roland is all smiles when he has new owners come into the system to open new restaurants- it means more stores are open, which gives him some cushioning.

In the opinion of some insiders, falling store count could spell the end of the Dickey’s family control:

If owners abruptly closed their doors and Wells Fargo did their store count, it could very well ruin Roland.

I also heard that they may appoint a new CEO based on this…

Dickey’s Allegedly in “Panic Mode” Over Store Closings; Website Lists 478 Locations

Employees report taking the brunt of Roland Dickey Jr.’s tirades and unreasonable demands.

We’ve heard recently:

14th straight day working, 12+ hour days.  Regional Business Leaders are told to continue store visits, some of them are having to travel out of state.

I can’t complain because I have a job, but anyone in the company making over $65k took an 11% pay cut this week and no days off.

I expected the pay cut but continuing to have no days off until further notice is exhausting on the mind and body right now.


The culture is terrible, and every employee is searching for a new job.

Roland yells at office staff and uses vulgar language on an almost daily basis, and it’s common for staff to want to crawl under their desks when he’s in the office just to avoid his wrath.

…people are fired on any given day based on If Roland woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  The office staff feels much the same.

A recent hire quit after just 3 days because of how he was spoken to by one of the higher ups in the operations department.


We all work at least 12 hours a day, and most of us drive over 3000 miles a month.

All field employees are expected to be out visiting stores every day, and we’re currently working a 7 day work week.  Granted we want to be out to support our owners, but it’s not safe.  My money is on Roland firing anyone who wants to stay home.

Employees are cussed at, given no real time off away from work, and instructed to hound all of the owners in their regions multiple times a day.

…there was a round of layoffs about a week and a half ago and probably another one coming in the next few weeks from what I hear.


Oh, I can provide a ton of info.

Like how they don’t pay people the proper amount for gas reimbursement (“you’ll get it back in your taxes”), how they own the company that makes the furnishings in the stores and you can only buy from that company, how they strong arm their staff to get owners to sign up for 3rd party vendors because Roland gets a kick back from places like DoorDash.

Dickey’s Franchise Owners Under Extreme Pressure to Stay Open

Field staff reports they are under pressure to keep franchise owners under pressure:

[Dickey’s field staff] is instructed to hound all of the owners in their regions multiple times a day.  There is direction to call the owners multiple times a day starting early in the morning to make sure the owners are working (which, is documented by home office to use as back up if an owner comes after Roland.  They can say “well you’re never working in your store like you agreed to in your franchise agreement”).

Owners don’t trust corporate staff because of the amount of turnover

Franchise owners allegedly get the brunt of this dysfunctional system, and they take it out on Dickey’s field staff:

What’s really sad is the poor owners who have to deal with this.

Dickeys doesn’t offer any new and exciting menu items or marketing ideas to drive people into the stores.

Some owners take over stores and get ZERO help from corporate leaving them to run stores while not knowing what to do.

The field team GENUINLY wants to help the owners, but the owners have been burnt by the company so many times that they are checked out.

The field staff gets cussed out, belittled, and kicked out of stores by owners who are tired of Dickeys.

All Dickeys says they’ll do is send legal letters, but those hold no weight.

Dickey’s Field Ops Allegedly Told to Harrass Franchise Owners

It should be known and shared, that if an owner is down double digits in sales, a member of the home office and field ops staff is directed to call EACH of those owners EVERY morning, to see if that owner is working in their store that day.  They’re told to call the store to ask if the owner is working that day.

Home office documents this each day, as a way to build a case against any owner who tries to say that Dickey’s is not supporting them.   They will say (for example) that the owner needs to be in their stores first and foremost to build sales.

Although that argument isn’t wrong (and in fact, each owner agrees to spending 40hrs a week in their stores per the FA) it’s the fact that even if an owner is on vacation or taking a day off, the home office staff is directly told, “get them engaged in their store, I don’t care where they are”.

There are owners who have other well-paying side jobs, and staff is still told to get them into their stores regardless of where they are.  Some staff was even directed to go to those side jobs, to try and get the owner into their restaurant. That direction comes from Ed Herman.

Any field ops member will confirm this.

Field Employee Gives Dickey’s an “F” on Food Safety & Coronavirus Information & Direction

You’d think home office would care enough about its field employees to keep them updated on what to do with this coronavirus.

It’s Monday and the only thing we’ve heard from Dallas is to cancel our hotel and flight reservations (that we didn’t even make ourselves), for a meeting that we had in Dallas next week.   Other than that, not a peep of direction.

Finally, there is ZERO talk amongst the corporate team about food safety and quality- NONE.  Dickeys leaves everything up to the owners and if a store is operating without (for example) thermometers to temp the food, Home Office will just say “make sure you documented it and contact the owner” (and of course, the owners don’t answer our calls).  Most of the stores, I wouldn’t allow my family to eat in.

And in a side note, last week was the FIRST time I heard anyone from home office talk about the importance of washing hands for 20 seconds.  In the entire time I’ve been with Dickey’s, never once have they ever discussed hand washing.

Will Dickey’s Survive?  An Employee Expresses Doubt

One employee stated that he/she thinks things are dire for Dickey’s if things don’t change:

If things continue this way, there will be no office staff as well as no one in the field.

If I were to guess, we have major lay offs at corporate because owners are going to close their stores- which means Roland is screwed with that Wells Fargo loan.

I think he’s going to ax everyone to save money for that interest rate loan he has to pay.

Dickey’s Franchise Website Lists 478 Locations

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit once claimed it had more than 600 locations.

The Dickey’s Barbecue Pit website currently lists 478 domestic locations.

As the pressure from the Coronavirus shutdowns and quarantines force marginal and struggling franchises to close, and the pool of prospective franchisees to take over closed stores (churning) dries up, Dickey’s store count could continue to drop dramatically.






DICKEY’S Corporate Employee Complaints (Discussion Forum)

Most Dickey’s Franchises Are Unprofitable, Franchisees Report

DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Franchise SBA Loans Investigated by U.S. Senator

DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Closed Location List

DICKEY’S Franchise Graveyard

DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT Franchise Complaints

DICKEY’S Franchise Owners Share Frustrations & Fears

Roland Dickey Jr. Extracted Millions While Dickey’s Franchise Owners Fought for Survival

DICKEY’S BARBEQUE PIT Franchise Closures, Internal Turmoil Revealed By UnhappyFranchisee.Com

DICKEY’S Franchise Class Action Lawsuit Filed in CA



TAGS: Coronavirus, COVID-19, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Dickey’s, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise, Dickey’s franchise, DBRI, Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants Incorporated, Dickey’s closed, Laura Rea Dickey, Roland Dickey Jr., franchise opportunity, franchise complaints, unhappy franchisee


34 thoughts on “DICKEY’S BARBECUE PIT: Will Dickey’s Survive COVID-19 Coronavirus?

  • As a former owner of Dickeys bbq, I would like to comment on the question whether Dickeys will survive the COVID 19. Listen they will. If it was up to me I wish the whole business go under. And to those people who are chasing success with this company good luck. I have been through it all loosing everything. So a word of advice to these owners, cut your loss and move on. The best thing that ever happened to me was to stop doing business with this company.

  • Anonymouse

    They may survive, but with a significantly reduced store count. Their website shows the removal of quite a few locations in the past weeks. Excluding food truck listings and stadiums which are not open regular hours like a real store, they are down in the 440’s which is a far cry from the peak of around 570 a few years ago, or even the claimed (but never proven) 600 locations 2 years ago. (

  • Closed franchisee

    The Dickey’s company has taken a poor approach to coivid-19. All the other major chains (restaurant and not) have reduced store hours to protect their employees and retain some payroll while sales are down. Dickey’s corporate has required all stores to be open regular hours putting their so-called “family members” at risk so that Roland has that sweet money.

    This company is the most corrupt I have ever seen. They are truly driven by greed at the expense of their franchisees who are struggling to just keep their stores open.

  • There is no strategy with choices being made by the higher-ups in Dallas. Corporate staff are being swapped around like a hot potato simply based on how Roland feels that day. He’ll fire staff if the company has a bad day in sales and not even think twice about it. At this point being fired seems like a luxury, compared to the 12hr days/7 days a week he has us working. We aren’t allowed to use our vacation time, either.

  • Anonymouse

    Dickey’s will survive covid19, but only due to the fear that they instill in their franchisees with baseless legal threats. Laura has been internally touting that they are “industry leading” in the pandemic response, which I can’t possibly believe is true. Laura doesn’t either, that’s why she never mentions it when doing all her press appearances. She knows that if she publicly states that they are industry leading that Five Guys, Chick-fil-A, Panera etc will laugh her out of town.

  • Gretch Norton

    Closures of Dickeys locations starting to accelerate – 3 California stores have closed in the last 2 weeks.

  • John Johnson

    They need to get Roland and Ed out.

  • John:

    Why do you say that? How would things improve without them?

    What kind of replacement would you like to see in there? focus, values, etc.?

  • Anonymouse

    Roland/Laura and their sycophants don’t understand the exact position that the majority of their franchises are in. They continuously say “we talked with locations that are performing well and here’s what is driving their success so we are going to replicate it”. They then implement EVERY customer acquisition source under the sun (and I do mean every), with the franchisee picking up the high cost of customer acquisition, But this is a failed approach and here is why:

    In any business, you’ve got your break even point. Here is where your fixed costs are covered (on a regular basis). This revenue should be driven by fixed price advertising like billboards or other fixed-price investments. This would be advertising where a fixed price can yield an unending source of sales determined only by the effectiveness of the marketing piece. Beyond the break even point where you are selling product at a greater profit margin (because all your utilities/rent etc is covered), then you can afford a higher customer acquisition fee for these sales. By talking to the “top locations”, you have already narrowed down to a subset of your stores that are likely operating above break even. At this point, paying a 35% customer acquisition fee (while maybe a bit high), is not as detrimental to the solvency of the location.

    In an ideal world the Dickey’s system claims 15% of sales should fall through as profit, if those high sales acquisitions are contributing to the sales below the break-even point, the location is better off forgoing those sales because they are losing money on them (regardless of repeat purchases).

    But you know who doesn’t truly care if repeat customers come in? DBRI who while they may think they have their sights set on long term growth really are concerned with how much royalty and other kickbacks come in right now.

    DBRI has focused so much on passing the customer acquisition cost on to the franchisee that they are making their locations lose money and go out of business because they do not understand the basic expense situation at these locations. They should not be contacting top stores to “replicate their success”, they should be contacting the bottom 20 stores and instead of blaming lack of sales on the franchisee not making enough phone calls or dropping enough marketing material off in the community, they should seek to understand how DBRI may be able to boost sales with fixed-cost advertising in the local franchisee’s market. Maybe DBRI can help pay for it with that marketing fund where 1/2 the contributions are SUPPOSED to come back for the franchisee to spend locally.

  • anonymous

    Dickeys US location count down again to 452, CA locations down to 60

  • anonymouse

    Dickey’s has only managed to open 2 truly new stores in the last quarter. Everything else has been reopens and churns. Stores opening in this time period would have been agreed on 6 months ago – so it isn’t COVID related non-openings. It seems the greed is truly catching up with the Dickey family and I credit unhappyfranchisee with helping inform new potential franchisees about the myriad of reasons NOT to franchise with Dickey’s. As the store count decreases, I can only wonder what number they need to get to before the whole thing topples.

  • anonymous

    CA down to 59 US locations 450

  • anonymous

    Dickeys US locations down to 443

  • anonymous

    Dickeys US locations down to 418; California down to 56

  • Incorrect Numbers


    The Dickey’s website is an abysmal mess. Their locations list as of writing this comment is missing quite a few stores that are listed over in the online ordering section, and can’t be used as an accurate indicator of store count (Middletown, DE for one). While I would love for their numbers to be down to 418, the actual count on is 408 right now and has to be incorrect.

    When Laura wonders why her franchisees don’t trust anything that comes from her ‘Big-data-centric company’, it’s because DBRI can’t do simple things like keep their location list correct on a website. The world has been doing store locators for 20+ years online, you would think that someone who claims to be so tech-centric could handle 20 year old technology.

    That’s not to mention that they were not at all technically prepared for a national T-Mobile advertisement and had to pull it right after launch due to amateur hour at Cole Ave in Dallas.

  • anonymous

    Dickeys locations 392; CA is 52

  • Not sure where the 392 number is from. Dickey’s 2020 FDD, dated September 4, 2020, was just released, so these are their reported numbers. Their fiscal years end May 31. They started with 500 outlets (U.S.numbers only), opened 39, terminated 21, reacquired 2, and had 50 cease operations. Net loss of 34 to 466. Add in 74 transfers, and the churn rate is 31.7%, which is off the charts.

    It’s 96 units lost in the last 3 years!

  • anonymous

    Please post a link to Dickey’s 2020 FDD

  • Anonymouse

    Another thing we don’t know about that churn rate is how many of the stores that churned would have been closed permanently if Dickey’s had not found some new sucker to buy it from them. A business model’s strength is not determined by the amount of stores you open, it’s by how many don’t close. Right now, Laura should shut her trap about “sales being up” and all the other Dickey’s B.S. because quite clearly their business model does not work. And this falls squarely on Roland and Laura, NOT the franchisees that they blame it on.

  • anonymouse

    With the recent announcement of increased Tech fees ($300-$400 a month), it is painfully obvious that DBRI sees the franchisees as a money pot to just dip their hand into whenever Roland needs to make the next payment on his yacht. Charging $20/month for a Microsoft 365 subscription is highway robbery. There are 1 of 2 things happening here. The inept director of IT is over-subscribing the locations to a premium version of MS Office with applications that will never be used, or they are pocketing $7.50 / month per location to offer Office. I’d bet the latter.

    That director of IT continues her ineptitude where for over a year, they had malware in their Point of Sale system that harvested credit card data. Not just from a few locations… more like over 30% depending on how you count closed locations…

    There is nothing that Roland and Laura can do properly except that that they inherited a few good recipes. That isn’t their doing, that’s their undoing. Greed runs this company and the franchisees are left trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives when corporate only cares about how much they can pull from franchisee bank accounts.

  • anonymous

    with the recent news regarding Dickey’s ignoring the hack of millions of credit card info, that Dickey’s allegedly knew about, maybe that’s the reason for the increased tech fee to shore up their IT?

  • Anonymouse

    @anonymous –

    That’s exactly how corporate is spinning it. The actual situation is that they aren’t doing anything new as an outcome of the credit card breach. The reality is that their Director of IT has zero idea what she’s doing, and is assisted at the top by Laura Rae who thinks that she knows technology. Neither of them have any valud experience and every technology initiative that has come out of corporate is riddled with bugs and issues (And a sky high monthly price to be their beta testers). Any franchisee will tell you this. even with billions of dollars, DBRI could not turn out a solid technology foundation – which is especially sad when they constantly push how tech-forward they are.

    The increased tech fee is simply a way for Roland to keep his income up while the chain’s sales go down the tubes. (although on the surface they will try to tell everyone that sales are up, all the time, higher than they’ve ever been).

  • Tom Hagy

    I’m a freelance journalist and researcher. I’m thinking of doing a story on the impact of the breach on top of everything else the Dickey’s stores are dealing with — which is terrible. Seeing a ton of calamity being reported on this site. Small businesses are taking it on the chin, but restaurants — no one is getting hit like restaurants. So sorry for that. One thing I’m trying to find out is which credit card payment systems the different stores were using when the breach happened. That might shed light on some things I’m not seeing reported anywhere. Feel free to reach out to me directly. [redacted]. Look me up on LinkedIn, too. I also run a webinar business for continuing legal education, based near Philadelphia. Thank you and hang in there. –Tom

  • exfranchisee

    Dickeys Corporate are 100% responsible for the data breach from the systems that they forced their franchisees to use. I also am an ex franchisee and I know first hand that Aloha was not safe and compliant with Data Protection regulations. They were warned that we needed chip and pin on several occasions that the outdated swipe technology was putting customers and franchisees at risk of data breach. No franchisee has ever been allowed to put their own systems into a Dickey’s Franchise, because DBRI ‘s model is to force them to use systems which DBRI either owned under subsidiary companies or had huge kickbacks coming in from. They right royally screw their franchisees causing financial ruin and hardship, they took a menu that was fantastic 10 years ago and blew it apart with cheapened menu offerings, a Mexican wave of Tacos. They ruined the core products and sides by changing the recipes and forcing franchisees to offer 1 dollar deals and pay for the losses themselves. These people have never even had a corporate chef who knows the science of cooking and what is safe and what isn’t. They are nothing more than a bunch of mafioso crooks and all of them belong inside. If only the FBI would investigate them for all the criminal exploitation, bullying and lies they spout. Even their own staff hate them with a vengeance. The sooner DBRI hits the skids the better it will be for everyone.

  • Actually despite all teh CC swipes & breeches… isn’t BBQ way better when done by a local guy on teh side of the road with a smoker?

    We don’t need Dickey’s or Sonny’s or Mission or any of that BS!

  • anonymouse

    James –

    That doesn’t really contribute anything to the discussion here. The discussion is not whether or not you, personally, prefer a national chain barbecue, or a mom and pop stand. This is entirely about how Dickey’s treats their individual owner/operators. If someone else finds the value proposition of chain barbecue as acceptable to separate with their money, then that’s perfectly fine. You are allowed to make your decisions, and someone else can decide that the (in your eyes, inferior) choice is acceptable to them.

    Just as I may prefer a certain brand vehicle, but that doesn’t mean that the options of there brands should not be out there if they are viable for someone else.

    The fact is, DBRI exists. What is up for discussion in this thread (and ultimately all Dickey’s articles on is to what lengths Dickey’s corporate goes to fill Roland’s pocket while sucking it out of his franchisee’s pockets. In a nutshell: he goes to great lengths.

  • anonymouse

    DBRI continues to scam franchisees with new fees each month. Their food distributor can’t get product to their locations and purchasing does zero about it. This is what we’ve come to expect from Dickey’s Corporate’s ineptitude.

    Additionally, they are pushing virtual and ghost kitchens which do nothing to drive brand visibility because they do not show the presence of the Dickey’s brand, or they exist solely on online ordering. Adding ‘non-traditional’ locations does not enhance the Dickey’s brand, but they use these stores in their store count to artificially say “we are adding new stores all the time!” They have to pivot to these type locations because the Dickey’s name has become connected with incompetence (thanks partially to this website for exposing the scam of Roland and Laura Rae Dickey).

    I don’t know when the two of them will realize they are not fit to run a company of this size. Maybe RDJ should just sail his yacht out to see and not step foot on land again.

  • Will not provide

    The comment above is 100% the truth. These fake brands are a way for them to hit 600+ in their store count. All a scam.

    Turnover in that office is unheard of for what could be a great company…if those two weren’t in control. RDJ should sail away in his small “yacht” and never look back. Maybe pick up his role model Jordan Belfort and they can scam people together.

  • Anonymous

    The comment above is 100% the truth. Roland Dickey Jr is a scam artist that scams people into his brand. He would make the franchise sales team read “Way of the Wolf” by Jordan Belfort. If you aren’t familiar with him he went to prison for scamming people by tricking them into buying a worthless product. Sure sounds familiar.

    Their 600+ locations is false. Using these ghost brands to pad their stats. Nothing is real at this company.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t look under the hood. Leadership is fraudulently padding reviews across all media and review sites.. IT team is a disaster but is propped up because it’s the families ugly product child – doesn’t work for stores or corporate. Majority of c-suite can barely spell the services they are supposed to be experts on. The awards are pay to play PR. New Franchise Dev fees are probably the only thing keeping this company afloat giving the failed business extensions they are pawning off on owners.

  • 170 locations have closed down in last 3 years. Check the FDD to see for yourself. Also note that a Dickeys is $500,000 min to open. They act like it is 300-350,000 assuming your in Texas and your landlord gives you $150,000 for improvement. Make sure to call existing owners before working with these guys. Don’t just call the hand picked owners they give you.

  • Biggest mistake on my life. Everything you have read above is spot on. If you are thinking about doing this concept RUN!

  • Anonymous

    I make the BBQ is it good though?

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