Restaurants & Food

Dickey’s Long History of Slow Cooking

Since 1941, Dickey’s has grown from a war veteran’s humble BBQ stop to the nation’s largest BBQ chain. Fooda caught up with Michelle Matthews, VP of Direct Sales and Catering, to learn more about the Dallas mainstay.


How did Dickey’s get its start?

We are a 3rd-generation owned and operated family business and it all started back in 1941 with Travis Dickey. He’s a war veteran and he opened the first Dickey’s in Dallas, Texas. The menu was super limited at that time. We had authentic and really slow-smoked barbeque, back then it was just briskets, hams, barbecue beans, potato chips, and beer.

What can someone expect walking into a Dickey’s that they won’t get at other BBQ places?

The hickory wood, that’s something that sets us apart. And I know a lot of people know us for our iconic big yellow cups. If you’ve never seen those, it’s a giant yellow cup you get to take home with you. You can’t have barbeque without some sweet tea.

BBQ is awesome year-round, but what makes it the quintessential summer food?

Once it’s summertime, there is no food on earth that tastes better than barbeque. For a lot of people, barbecuing is an art form—whether they do it at home or they go somewhere—it brings families and friends together. Once you add the rub, your marinades, spices, different sauces that you have, a plain piece of chicken becomes the most exciting thing on the menu.

What’s the biggest difference between BBQ at Dickey’s compared to when people try to make it at home?

In addition to having a proprietary rub and our sauces, we also have our own hickory wood blend which is really cool. The wood brings out certain flavors and our blend is awesome. It is also smoked on-site, every single store has its own pit, so they’re doing that for 12 hours—it’s probably just a lot easier to let us do all of the cooking.

What’s the most popular main dish at Dickey’s?

Texas style chopped brisket, that’s going to be the most popular main dish. That’s been on our menu since day 1.

You have to pick one side, what do you go with?

I love the mac and cheese. It’s actually something that we’ve been perfecting over the years. We even attended a national mac and cheese convention (who knew that existed, right?) back in the day to help us rework the recipe to make it creamier and with better ingredients. Now it’s an awesome five-cheese blend.

How about your customers?

I would say overall, when you’re talking dine-in customers, barbeque beans. Just like the Texas-style chopped brisket was the first meat on the menu from Day 1, barbeque beans was the first side. You can’t go wrong with the classics.

What’s next for Dickey’s?

International expansion is on the table right now, which is really cool and exciting to be a part of.  

Technology is always on the forefront, too. We are really proud of our big data solutions that we have in place for targeted marketing strategies. We’ve created a business intelligent service called “smokestack” that analyzes our store’s sales, labor, and cost of goods. It collects all of that data every 20 minutes so our owner-operators can see how they’re doing in real time.

We’re also focused on our foundation, Barbeque Boots & Badges. It supports local law enforcement, firefighters and their families—first responders who have put their lives on the line. The company was always looking for a way to give back so Mr. Dickey’s wife, Marie Dickey, started that foundation.