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Dickey’s Tech Investments Pay Off

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Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants has made a series of tech investments that have improved the online ordering experience for guests and increased revenue for franchisees.

“We’ve been so fortunate that we’ve been able to continue to serve” during the pandemic, says Laura Rea Dickey, CEO of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants Inc. Like many restaurants, the barbecue brand ramped up its off-prem business, a move that was streamlined through technology.

Dynamic Duo

When asked about tech investments, Dickey is quick to say, “The biggest upgrade we’ve had is being able to recruit Carissa De Santis.” Dickey and De Santis, both 2019 Top Women in Restaurant Technology award winners, met at MURTEC. “Having the right folks to build it” is essential.


Carissa de Santis, VP of IT for Dickey's

When De Santis joined the team as VP of IT in 2019, her to-do list included improvements to make Dickey’s proprietary platform sing. “She was able to take everything that was working well and make everything work so much better,” Dickey says.

Thanks to analytics, the restaurant brand could see where the friction points were in the customer journey.

“On the backend, there were a lot of separate analytics where we could see where people were abandoning the cart, and it gave us insights on what needed to be improved,” explains Dickey.

For example, images were taking too long to load, and the guest’s cart wasn’t visible at all times. “They want to see what they’re ordering and keep track of things,” says Dickey.

Dickey’s rolled out its mobile-first platform in April that eliminated those pain points. Customer-facing features include having an optimized view that includes smart upsells of complementary items and a shopping cart that is visible at all times.

“It now takes less than 2 minutes to get through,” a decrease of 30 seconds, De Santis explains.

Online ordering increased 391% to about 2,500 checks a day and the average check size increased 32% from $25.73 to $35.52.


Contactless delivery and curbside were added as service options.

Adding New Features: Curbside

One of the advantages of having an in-house team is the ability to create and add updates when needed. “Our in-house team was able to develop a new web feature quickly and turn it on for all of our stores simultaneously,” says Dickey.

Dickey’s was able to create and rollout the curbside feature in a few days, which added a valuable revenue stream when dining rooms remained closed. “We were able to add an additional revenue stream to all of our stores within 72 hours,” explains Dickey.

In addition, Dickey’s added new features to its proprietary back-end dashboard allowing franchisees to indicate if their location is open for dine-in service.

“With more than 500 locations in 44 different states and countless cities across the U.S., we felt it was important in times like these to give our Owner Operators an easy way to communicate to their community regarding the status of their dining room seating,” says Dickey. “With this update, Owner Operators are able to signal if their location on is open for dine-in seating, or simply takeout and delivery.”


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Here to Stay: Contactless Delivery

In response to COVID-19, Dickey’s quickly added contactless deliveries, and it will continue to be an option. “It is one of the options our guests wanted immediately,” says Dickey. “And we were able to update the system quickly to add that field as an option.”

The curbside offering coincided with an upgrade in packaging.

Mobile First Online Ordering

Online ordering for off-prem, including curbside and third-party delivery orders, went from 30% of its business to 90% in five business days.

To maximize its off-prem even more, the brand partnered with Chowly to integrate orders from third-party delivery services.

Typically, Chowly integrates directly with a restaurant’s POS; however, with Dickey’s, Chowly’s functionality was integrated into Dickey’s proprietary online ordering system so that all franchisees -- regardless of their POS -- could benefit from the third-party delivery integration service.

Partnering with Chowly greatly expedited the rollout and adoption of third-party delivery, and Chowly’s solution eliminated the need for tablets.


“We have a great small tech team in-house, but we also use strategic partners. They help us do it faster,” says De Santis.

Menu Updates

Dickey’s menu updates are made in one place – in its proprietary dashboard – allowing Dickey’s to integrate in one place even if stores have different POS systems.

“We smoke on site and pull every morning,” says Dickey. “You got what you got for the day. When you sell out, it is such a pain point to turn [that option] off in the POS and in online ordering. With Chowly, we update it in one place.”

This change leads to a better guest experience, and “it simplifies operations and eases tension on our staff so they can focus on the food,” says Dickey.

New Site for Franchises

The family-owned franchise brand relaunched its franchisee intranet portal, the Smoke Pit, and overhauled its reporting system: SmokeStack. The new systems give Dickey’s owner/operators improved access to hundreds of resources directly from their mobile devices.

“We’re all adapting to the new normal and working behind the scenes to make it accessible for everyone, including our Owner/Operators,” says Dickey.

Recent projects also include a revamped franchise website with all the details about purchasing and operating a franchise.

About the Author


Anna Wolfe

Anna Wolfe is Hospitality Technology’s senior editor.  She has more than 15 years of experience as a B2B journalist writing about restaurants, retail and specialty food.

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