With more than 60 locations across the Midwest and Southwest, RibCrib is reinventing their unique brand with a proven and turnkey franchise model for driven entrepreneurs
Tulsa, OK (RestaurantNews.com) On South Harvard Avenue in Tulsa stands an old house rumored to have been built before Harvard Avenue was paved. There’s a simple spirit to it, with its original pine beams and upwardly slanted roof. Today, it’s gone through some remodeling including a new entrance and vintage black and white photos of old Tulsa on the walls, but atop it all still sits the iconic RibCrib sign. For more than 25 years, this original RibCrib location has been “Smokin’ the Good Stuff” and serving up authentic barbecue — heaping platters of signature ribs, brisket and pulled pork to patrons, whether young or old, that think of RibCrib as their quintessential barbecue spot.
From the very beginning, when Bret Chandler founded RibCrib in Tulsa in 1992, the chain has been rooted in the tradition of slow cooked hickory smoked meats and home-style sides. Today, that same sentiment remains as the brand celebrated its 25th anniversary last year on solid footing thanks to a sharpened focus, steady growth and an increased push into franchising with a new fast casual restaurant concept it launched – all while remaining true to its barbecue roots, which have been, and continue to be, key to its longevity.
“Almost everyone can relate to barbecue in some sense because people are driven by an emotional connection to barbecue – it’s very strong and powerful,” said Garrett Mills, CEO of RibCrib and Chandler Hospitality Group. “The nostalgia is there for RibCrib and we like that we have some history behind our brand. But over the years, you realize you have to stay relevant. We’ve remained genuine and true to whom we are as a company since day one, but as the restaurant industry evolves, we’re doing the same. We’re excited to introduce our fast casual RibCrib concept and full service restaurants to more towns across the country – it’s our answer for families and friends to enjoy a great meal at a reasonable price while we make every rib righteous and keep every glass full.”
RibCrib’s story began in 1992 with just five meats and two sides. Over the years the brand has grown, introducing new products and barbecue styles, but as success continued, RibCrib began looking at ways to become even more relevant to customers. The company introduced a new, fast-casual counter service restaurant option into the RibCrib system, boasting a simplified menu, with dozens of core items, while retaining RibCrib’s famous, heritage-style barbecue. The risk paid off – average net sales in these smaller format units, some of which still have table service, have grown to $1,103,332 between 2015 and 2017.
Today, RibCrib has spread to eight states and more than 60 locations. The new, fast casual model is credited for igniting the brand’s progression and surge into franchise development.
“Rib Crib’s fast casual restaurant has introduced a new economic model to our franchising efforts because the footprint addresses fundamental shifts in certain consumer dining habits more than most other brands in the barbecue space,” said Scott Mellon, director of RibCrib franchising. “It’s a fresh, fast and friendly environment, adapting to today’s busy guest and allowing our owners to take full advantage of dine-in, take-out and delivery.”
The introduction of the fast casual model along with it’s full service restaurants is enabling RibCrib to enter into new territories that were previously untouched. According to Mellon, the fast casual model also lowers the barrier to entry into restaurant ownership yet new franchisees still benefit from the experience, purchasing power, training and operational efficiencies of the 25+ year old restaurant chain.
The combination of the new fast casual model and a full service restaurant option is enabling RibCrib to enter into new territories that were previously untouched. Throughout 2020, the brand is targeting 4 to 6 new restaurant openings along with 6 to 8 new multi-unit franchise agreements.
“That’s part of the magic of our growth potential – we’re very realistic about how fast we want to grow and we are going to make sure we’re as much of a fit for our franchisees as they are for us,” said Mellon. “Nearly 30 years of restaurant operations experience and proven success have allowed us to be very strategic about how we want to grow and with whom we want to grow with. Other brands don’t have that luxury.”
RibCrib now has their sights set on continuing the expansion of the fast casual footprint and full service restaurants for many years to come. Backed by a strong culture and a management team determined to knit together a new story that depends less on old stereotypes and antiquated business models and more on a new golden era of barbecue that showcases restaurant profitability and efficient operations – RibCrib is looking for franchisees that can emulate those same values.
“At every level of the company, our people choose to stay in it. We have people in our headquarters running system-wide operations that began their careers more than 25 years ago by working shifts in the very first restaurant on South Harvard Avenue. That has everything to do with the fact that RibCrib is a great place to work, and our people are happy – something this simple can have an enormous impact on your growth,” Mills said.
With its strategic 2020 growth plan, RibCrib is laying out opportunities in areas with huge development potential such as Dallas and Ft. Worth, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas, North Florida and Nebraska – to name a few.
“As we move forward, it will be critically important that we continue to lay out our foundation for development over the next few years – this means increasing our awareness for franchise growth as a means for investment. While we are widely known throughout Oklahoma and across certain sections of the country, there are still large pockets across the U.S. where people don’t know RibCrib and what authentic, slow smoked barbecue centered around community really is,” Mellon said. “With the help of our growing franchisee base, our strong culture and our commitment to craftsmanship, straight talk and exceptional barbecue that builds on classic styles and new flavors – we’re excited to see what the future holds for our brand.”
About RibCrib Franchising
RibCrib was founded in Tulsa, Okla. In 1992 and has grown to more than 60 barbecue joints across eight states. RibCrib is dedicated to slow smoking meats the old-fashioned way and serving them simply with a steadfast commitment to using only the highest quality ingredients. This allows our franchisees and their pitmasters to honor American barbecue excellence while simultaneously disrupting tradition to create better opportunities for growth and profitability. RibCrib franchisees can expect their initial investment to range from $261,499 to $1,374,859 depending on restaurant format and real estate selected. True to its name, RibCrib’s signature dish is ribs, but the restaurants also offer a complete menu of traditional barbecue meats, sides, sandwiches and more. For more information about franchising with RibCrib, visit www.ribcrib.com/franchise.