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Barbecue Restaurants: Hot in More Ways than One

In 2010 the restaurant industry, like every other industry, was impacted by the struggling economy. There was an average of 5,000 restaurants closing per month, while only 4,500 new restaurants were opening. However, there is one group of restaurants in particular who seem to be thumbing their nose at the economic downturn, and it might surprise you. It’s the barbecue joints. From Texas-style ribs covered in the traditional sweet sauce, to the Carolina-style pulled pork with that signature vinegar kick and, of course, the Memphis style dry-rubbed ribs, new barbecue restaurants are popping up everywhere.

In the first two quarters of 2011 there was a 2% to 3% increase, in the number of BBQ restaurants nationwide. We aren’t just talking Famous Dave’s either. The hip, new, trendy, thing to do is to go to an upscale barbecue restaurant. From Smoque and Q in Chicago, to Wildwood Barbeque in New York City diners are eager to sample some home-cooked ribs. Perhaps this is a fad, but many experts expect this trend to last. Most credit the influx of television programming exposing much of the country to the art of barbecue that previously only people south of the Mason-Dixon Line were familiar with. Some credit even the new protein heavy diet fads sweeping the nation. After all, you don’t need two pieces of bread to eat a whole rack of ribs. Either way, there certainly is a market for ribs and brisket outside of Texas.

So what does this mean for foodservice manufacturers, and equipment manufacturers? Well, much has been made about the success of Mexican Restaurants during the recession particularly the quick-casual juggernaut Chipotle, but this much less publicized barbecue market is an area that is ripe for the picking. Everyone should expect prime meats, barbecue sauces, grill products, smoker products, cornbread and other items associated with barbecue to thrive in the next few years if the trends continue. If a manufacturer is deciding when to launch a new product in any of those categories, no longer do they have to worry about only marketing it to the south. As the numbers show, this country is currently going BBQ crazy.

 

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