Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

JUN 2018

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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● ● ● ● JUNE 2018 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • 69 chain profile I t's impossible to tell the Willie Jewell's Old School Bar-B-Q story without talking about Bono's Pit Bar-B-Q. It's fair to describe the two concepts, you see, as par- ent and child — a duo that looks and acts so much alike that you can't help but notice how similar they are. At 69 years old, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Bono's plays the parent in this metaphor. The chain, with about 20 locations primarily in that market, specializes in serving authentic pit barbecue, with the pit itself sitting in the center of the dining room. This provides a great dinner-and-a-show experience, says Josh Martino, president of Bono's and Willie Jewell's. It's also an expensive concept to execute. "Our dedication to the quality and authenticity of the product and how we do it at Bono's is the reason we never grew to 200-300 units. While it may have held us back in the eyes of some, I think it's the reason we've had such great longevity over the course of 69 years," says Martino. Still, Bono's is a business, and it's the nature of businesses to grow. So, about a decade ago Martino began exploring how to grow Bono's. One of the biggest obstacles to the chain's expansion, he says, was the cost of opening a new store. At between $1.8 million and $2 million, it was simply out of reach for many potential franchisees. The company then began exploring an operation with a lower price tag. The result was Willie Jewell's, a fast-casual barbecue concept with a price tag between $550,000 and $750,000 to build. The Best of Barbecues In many ways, Willie Jewell's is a scaled-down version of Bono's. In fact, the company at one point considered calling it "Baby Bono's" or something similar. (To avoid confusing Bono's customers, the company took the name from another source; more on that later.) The menu of Willie Jewell's for example, is nearly identical to Bono's. Willie Jewell's also matches Bono's in its unusual lineup for the barbecue space, which is intensely regional in style. In- stead of serving one type of barbecue, Willie Jewell's offers what it deems the best of all the different styles: The ribs are St. Louis, the pork butt Carolina, the brisket Texas, and more. This menu, and determining the best of all the different styles, took years to develop, Martino says. "We haven't always done brisket. We haven't always done all the sides that we feature today. It's been an evolution of finding what people like most." Despite having fairly similar menus, the exact method Willie Jewell's uses to cook its meat differs from Bono's. Bono's, recall, uses a pit in the front of the house. Today's landlords, however, aren't keen on this model, Martino says. Instead, the chain relies on a smoker that sits in the back of the house, with a loading and unloading door flush against the restaurant's back wall. This approach, Martino adds, saves valuable space inside the building while also eliminating the need for an expensive hood designed for solid fuel exhaust. Willie Jewell's smoker operates essentially 24/7, cooking chicken, ribs, turkey breast and sausage during the day and brisket and pork butt overnight. WILLIE JEWELL'S KEEPS IT OLD SCHOOL Offering what it deems the best of all the regional barbecue styles, this fast-casual outfit commits to authenticity in both design and cooking. By Toby Weber ● Key Players: Josh Martino, president; Joe Adeeb, CEO; Rick Kerns, director of franchisee development ● Interior Designer: Birdee Designs, Kirsten Martino ● Kitchen Design Consultant: Patterson Scale & Restaurant Equipment, Ed Roth ● Equipment Dealer: Patterson Scale & Restaurant Equipment, Ed Roth WILLIE JEWELL'S AT A GLANCE

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