Monday, September 16, 2013

Chain of Fools?

Are we a CHAIN?!
Man, this is a great question. I get this all the time. I am in the restaurant, prowling around like an overgrown, out of shape puma, doing my best to annoy the staff with my usual barrage of comments, suggestions and questions, when a guest will come up to me, crinkle up their nose, and say, “Excuse me....Is this a CHAIN!?”

My mellifluous and silky response goes something like this, usually: 

"Hmmmm....Ahhh...a "Chain, you say? Ummm...WelI Jeez, you know that's a great question sir...really. I haven't had time to think about that...I guess...Well I mean, It depends on what you mean, sir. If you mean, 'More than one...' Then yes. Yes we are..."

Well, it's true. 

On July 31st of this year we opened our second restaurant in the Ballantyne neighborhood - 15105 John J. Delaney Dr. (Suite J) This is a huge milestone for us and we couldn't be more thrilled. We have a great crew, a beautiful space and so many complimentary guests. For those that have said nice things, we thank you and hope you tell somebody about us and come back soon.

And if you are looking for a few sound bites to put in your face, here's what's going on:

Yes, we have a bar at our Ballantyne location! Jeremy Guthrie, our Food & Beverage Director, has put together a well thought out, balanced selection of 25 beers and 6 wines with fresh local beer and micros from around the country. And it is a great place to settle in a watch a game. This month features fall seasonals with several Oktoberfest beers from OMB and Great Lakes already available. Also try the PumpKick from New Belgium as well. 

Other features include Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Allagash White, and of course, PBR, Genny Cream and Natty Bo in cans.

And don't forget, we will be showing ALL Buffalo BiIls and Carolina Panther games this year as well as SEC College Football on Saturdays.

The Bar area has also given Jeremy a chance to showcase some unique menu items for the fall. Check out our Borracho Bean Hummus, Buffalo Chicken Tender Sliders, Short Rib Nachos and more. And here's the best part - all selections are under $5! 

We are rolling out our new daily Beer and Food specials this week. Three Dollar Thursday, Five Dollar Friday, Double Points Monday and many more exciting Daily Specials for all!

As always, every Monday we will feature a new Dog of the Week - just to keep you guessing, and back for a limited time is our Maui Gold signature hot dog with grilled pineapple salsa, red onion and cilantro lime crema. 

Also, look for our "Let's GO Buffalo!" Chicken and Roasted Poblano sausage topped with Franks Hot sauce, blue cheese, pickled onion and diced celery. 

Simply great stuff going on at JJ's right now.

And, the thing is, even if we were to grow to a million stores, I don't think I would ever call JJ's Red Hots a "Chain." I just don't think of us in that way.

But we are something, aren't we?

Officially, we are an independent, multi-unit limited-service fast-casual hot dog joint fighting every day for your business. We have two restaurants and one hot dog cart where our dedicated and lovely staff try their darndest to serve you the best hot dog you have ever had in your life. Or, as we like to say, "There is no greater joy than a kick-ass hot dog."

And, because we truly believe in this simple idea, I would actually like to build a million locations. Just for you. Because the hot dogs are THAT good...and you deserve it. 

And there are many other reasons why we want to build a million restaurants. Some of them are as follows, in no particular order. And if this makes us a chain*, so be it. 

In the words of the great Bob Marley, "So who the cap fit, let them wear it..."


To create something from nothing. Every day.
(Whiteboard session for JJ's taken two years ago yesterday. I still wear that shirt)

Because Kids Love Hot Dogs.

Because of what this guy represents:
Hard Work/Passion for Quality/Respect/Value Creation/A Sense of Humor

Two words: 'Little League.'

To create jobs and nurture future leaders.

To design unique and 'fun-to-be-in' spaces.

To be part of something bigger than ourselves...

To work with fascinating and talented people.

To teach young people the values of teamwork, leadership, and responsibility.

To build beautiful things and have a little fun.

To celebrate more milestones like this.

For the dogs, man...the dogs!
*Photo by Kevin Chelko

 *photo courtesy of Michael Hernandez, super fan #1.

Because sometimes everyone needs a fresh perspective on things...

Because of Frank...

...and last but certainly not least, for our incredible guests, fans and crew. Thank you all!!

*For the record, the restaurant industry is the second largest employer in this country (13.1 MILLION people in 2013, to be exact) , and "chain" restaurants employ a huge amount of employees. Further, CEO's of successful chain restaurants don't consider themselves (or operate like) 'chain' restaurants at all - that's a pop culture word that doesn't really exist inside the restaurant business anymore. There are more refined and descriptive ways to describe restaurant concepts now. (QSR, Fast Casual, Quick Casual, etc.) 

Honestly, the negative public perception of 'chain' restaurants is just wrong in my opinion. It is a herculean effort to build a restaurant 'concept' into a large, multi-unit operation (a so-called 'chain') like Panera or Chipotle or Dunkin' Donuts. It's close to impossible, in fact, if you did the math. 

And to sustain and grow at scale is even more difficult - especially if you are talking about a brand that is mostly operated by franchisees.