Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. CEO Laura Rea Dickey is Making A Regional Cuisine an International Phenomenon
The globe is more interconnected now than it has ever been in the history of the human race, and this is a good thing. Traveling thousands of miles in a matter of hours, communicating with someone on the other side of the planet in real-time, and generally encouraging the spread of new ideas and information are all made possible by technological advancements. As we have gained the ability to step outside of our comfort zones and learn about other people’s ways of life, meals and cuisines that were once considered regional have the opportunity to become more widely known, eventually gaining international renown.
Laura Rea Dickey, Chief Executive Officer of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc., has not overlooked the significance of this concept. Currently, Laura Rea oversees over 550 franchise sites in the United States, and since taking on the role of CEO in 2016, she has prioritized international expansion for the company. Laura Rea’s focus on the intersection of marketing and technology has positioned the company for explosive growth on a global scale. The company currently has seven international locations and several partnerships that will see many more opened in locations ranging from the United Arab Emirates to Singapore shortly.
The lowly beginnings of Texas BBQ
Unlike the country’s scenery, barbecue customs and traditions in the United States are as diverse as the country’s cuisine. In North Carolina, a vinegar-based sauce is used on a whole hog, whereas just below the state line in South Carolina, the emphasis is on pig shoulder and mustard is the major taste profile for their sauce. In North Carolina, a vinegar-based sauce is used on a whole hog. Even within the state of Texas, there is a tremendous deal of variation in what is considered “genuine barbecue.” It cannot be argued, however, that the smoky, peppery brisket and sausage of Central Texas barbecue, whose cooking traditions date back to the mid-1800s, has something unique to offer diners.
It was during this period that German and Czech immigrants began settling in the region, establishing the little Texas communities that have survived to this day and have retained many of their customs. Opening grocery stores and meat markets, the thrifty settlers would take the brisket cut of the calf and gently smoke it over low heat in pits behind their establishments, a practice that is still practiced today. This process not only transformed a generally tough cut of meat into something soft and tender, but it also infected it with a peppery, smokey flavor and allowed it to be stored for longer periods without rotting the flesh.
The fact that this very inexpensive option provided for a quick and excellent dinner soon became known among cowboys and cotton pickers, and barbecue quickly became a favorite supper choice for them. Fresh slices of moist brisket were served on parchment paper at grocery stores and butcher shops, and sides were pulled off the shelves of supermarkets. BBQ places began cropping up all over the region as the food gained in popularity, but the traditions of bringing the meat wrapped in butcher paper and serving it with grocery store staples such as crackers, pickles, and onions remained in place.
A family-owned firm with deep roots in heritage
Most Texans grow up eating barbecue, and Travis Dickey grew up eating it himself. In 1941, the World War I veteran decided to combine his love of slow-smoked meats and excellent conversation by opening the first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Dallas, Texas, which became a national chain over time. Travis Dickey would run the pit and prepare all of the meats, while his wife Ollie Dickey would serve customers behind the counter. The original menu consisted of only beef brisket, pit hams, barbecue beans, potato chips, beer, bottled milk, and sodas. While raising their sons Roland Sr. and T.D., as well as their daughter Elizabeth, they worked together to run the restaurant for more than two decades. While the rest of the world developed and changed around them, they remained true to the traditions of Texas Barbecue.
Following Travis Dickey’s death, his youngest son, Roland Sr., assumed control of the eatery. With the assistance of his brother TD, Roland was able to extend his business to nine additional locations within ten years. Due to the popularity of their father’s trademark recipes and dedication to classic Texas barbecue, Roland Sr. decided to begin franchising his business in 1994. Roland Sr. spearheaded the company’s expansion efforts, which resulted in the opening of their first out-of-state shop in Denver, Colorado, followed by locations in other states, introducing Texas barbecue to people who had never had the opportunity to enjoy it before.
It was never in her plans when Laura Rea married Roland Dickey Jr., the grandson of Travis and Ollie, that she would become a member of the family company. She forged her route in marketing, working to assist in the development of identification and branding initiatives for local, regional, and national enterprises, as well as for nonprofit organizations. However, after Roland Jr. joined the company in 1999 and assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. in 2006, he sought to rapidly expand the brand from its current 99 locations, with the goal of making the company one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the country in the process. To contribute her knowledge in brand development, technology, and marketing, he invited Laura Rea to join the firm as a consultant. However, her insights quickly proved to be essential, and she was promoted to the position of Chief Information Officer. Laura Rea, who collaborated with virtually every department inside the company, was essential in enabling the company to grow from less than 100 locations to more than 500 in just four years, while also transforming the way the organisation viewed information and technology in general.
Laura Rea joined Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. in 2016 as Chief Executive Officer, bringing her expertise in big data and information technology to the fast-casual market. Throughout the years, she has worked to expand the Dickey’s brand on a global scale, creating partnerships with businesses in countries all over the world to guarantee that the Dickey’s brand is appropriately introduced in each area she enters. In 2018, the brand established its first overseas outlets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where it customised its menu to meet the needs of the local population.
Dickey’s overseas sales are expected to reach new heights in 2021, according to the company’s press release. The company established three overseas locations in the second quarter alone, including one in Singapore, one in Japan, and one in the United Arab Emirates’ Yas Mall, as well as making other announcements about future development. In September, a new location in Sao Paulo, Brazil –– the country’s largest city with a population of 12 million people –– opened, and an additional 110 locations are expected to open in the country over the next few years under the leadership of owner/operators Bruno Gallucci and Cyro Pires Xavier in the coming years. There are plans to open 15 locations over the next ten years in Singapore. In addition, two stores have already opened in Tokyo, Japan. The same owner, Lin (Jason) Sunsheng, who opened the two Tokyo locations also obtained the Master Rights for the country of Japan. In addition, an agreement covering the entire country of Botswana has been signed.
Laura Rea Dickey has managed to capture and grow the magic that Travis Dickey first created with his first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit location, just as earlier generations have been able to do with their own Dickey’s Barbecue Pit locations. For a number of years, the idealised image of Texas barbecue had been rising in popularity. Dickey’s had the structure and expertise to achieve scalable development, which has proven impossible for so many others in the food service industry. The world is clamouring for Texas barbecue, and Laura Rea and the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit crew are working tirelessly to provide it.