Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q: Leveling-up the Barbecue Experience

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Over the past few years, the Barbecue Restaurant industry has witnessed a spike in demand. Barbecue dishes such as pulled pork, brisket, and ribs have been grabbing the attention of numerous food enthusiasts. According to the QSR Magazine, 95% of Americans say they enjoy Barbecue and almost one-third of them eat barbecue every week. As the demand is increasing exponentially, several new players are emerging in the industry—adding to the competition.

Excelling in the competition with its profound experience in the industry, Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q has been serving its customers with the most authentic southern barbecue experience. The Jacksonville, Florida-based company was established in 2009 by Joe Adeeb and Josh Martino (CEO and President of Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q and Willie Jewell’s respectively). Willie Jewell’s is the Fast Casual sister concept of Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q, a 72-year-old Southern Pit Bar-B-Q legend founded in 1949.

The Legend of Willie Jewell

Willie Jewell Daniels was a 16-year-old girl with no home and no means. The Adeeb family offered her a job at their legendary Green Turtle Restaurant and later, Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q in Jacksonville. As she went to their family restaurants, she quickly proved that she could cook almost anything and commanded respect in the kitchen.

Along with being an exceptional cook, Willie Jewell also had a sharp wit and an immeasurable heart. Attributing ninety-five percent of his cooking knowledge to her, Adeeb says, “Not only was Willie Jewell an incredible cook, but she was also an incredible person.” He cherishes the things that she taught him about cooking as well as life. Although Ms. Jewell passed some time ago, her legend lives on through Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q.

Dedication to Quality and Authenticity

Like Bono’s, Willie Jewell’s also smokes all of its BBQ the old-fashioned way—the low and slow method. This unique method has made both Bono’s and Willie Jewell’s a favorite in Jacksonville and beyond. The company’s dedication to quality and authenticity is exemplified by a promise of southern hospitality, decades-old recipes, as well as the fact that everything is smoked on-site and cut to order.

Willie Jewell’s is not a regional barbecue; it offers all the different types of barbecue options. Among the plethora of dishes it offers, beef brisket is one of the most loved by the customers. These briskets are smoked over blackjack Oakwood for 15 hours. Pulled Pork is the best-selling dish at Willie Jewell’s. The other popular dishes offered at the restaurant include Smoked Turkey, Chicken, St. Louis Ribs, and Smoked Sausage. Due to its commitment to optimum quality and service, Willie Jewell’s has grown to 15 locations throughout the U.S.—from Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina to New Hampshire.

A Heartfelt Approach to Customer Service

A satisfied customer is a testament to the success of any company. To stand out in the competition, companies are constantly working to ensure the optimum customer experience. Willie Jewell’s also highly emphasizes the customer experience.

Smoked for hours and served in minutes, Willie Jewell’s promises the best Bar-B-Q experience to its customers. The customers walking into the restaurant are treated like family. “Instead of selling cheap food, taking shortcuts, or giving anybody any fake sentiments, we want to take care of our customers like they are our grandmas, our children, our loved ones,” mentions Josh. He believes treating customers like that is what has kept them coming back for 72 years.

Enduring Company Culture

Josh believes that leadership is paramount in any kind of business. He mentions that it is the company’s responsibility to convey to its employees that every customer entering the company buildings is a guest and they have to be treated with the utmost appreciation and gratitude. Describing his views on company culture, he adds that culture is not something that can be created out of thin air; it is something that is built and nurtured over time.

“You can’t just put a Ping-Pong table and some cold beer in a conference room and call it a culture,” Josh states. He believes the fact that the company has thrived for 72 years and is probably one of the oldest restaurant chains in the America of its size—is the testament to the culture established by the leadership in the corporate office as well as the leadership within its buildings from managers, franchisees, local store owners, etc. Willie Jewell’s customers resonate with its leadership style and the culture created over a long period.

Thriving through Challenges

In recent years, labor shortages and supply chain disruptions have posed a plethora of challenges for companies like Willie Jewell’s. It is difficult for the company to staff its restaurants appropriately for the number of businesses it has and the number of customers it serves. Moreover, procuring all the items needed to prepare the menu, sourcing its products, and the rising commodity costs are among the other prominent challenges faced by Willie Jewell’s.

Furthermore, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had major impacts on the food and beverages industry. The need for take-out, drive-through, third-party delivery, and online services accelerated during the pandemic. Willie Jewell’s was prepared for the sudden shift and managed to thrive during such difficult times. Before the pandemic, the company witnessed a 60-80% increase in online and third-party delivery. However, during the pandemic, it witnessed a whopping 240% increase in the demand for the same services.

Robust Expansion Plans

Willie Jewell’s is aiming to continue expanding its concept in the near future. Recently, it opened its 15th location. The company has plans to expand Bono’s, its relatively new Seafood Concept, as well as a new cookie concept, Reina’s Cookies—which is set to be launched in the coming months. “We’ve got many concepts that we are looking to grow. The future is bright, we just have to get past this pandemic and see where we land,” adds Josh.

Willie Jewell’s also aims to make changes to its mobility—the way it builds restaurants and sources its suppliers. As the world moves further and farther with the digital transformation, Willie Jewell’s is embracing technology-based and delivery-based systems. “We strive to ensure our packaging is sustainable and the customers are well taken care of,” concludes Josh.

Quote: “Culture is not something that can be created; it is something that is developed and nurtured over time.”

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