Pitmasters Find Support in Unique Partnerships
Success in the restaurant industry is a moving target. From the challenges of training and managing a mercurial workforce to ensuring customer satisfaction with every transaction, operators across segments know that every day will inevitably present new hurdles to overcome. But for Darren Warth, a competitive pitmaster and owner of Smokey D’s BBQ in Des Moines, Iowa, those challenges are part of the thrill.
“That’s what I love about the restaurant business,” Warth says. “No two days are alike. I might be working on financial stuff one minute, but then I’m walking through one of our locations like a food critic, looking for what’s wrong before the customer catches it. I’m always trying to make the guest experience better.”
On a busy day, Smokey D’s three locations may serve upwards of 3,000 people, and Warth says the key to keeping them happy is consistency.
“One of the things that’s made Smokey D’s successful is the fact that we don’t change our menu,” he says. “Day in and day out, whether my customers come in at 11 o’clock in the morning or 8 o’clock at night, I want them to have exactly the same product.”
For example, pork butt cook times vary greatly depending on the weight. Warth, who has sourced all of his restaurant’s pork butts from Smithfield Culinary for the past four years, has worked with his team to implement a tight spec for the size of the cuts that come into his kitchen.
“I know that my pork butts are going to weigh 8-9 pounds every single day,” Warth says. I don’t have to differentiate between a 2-pounder, which might take 6 hours to cook, and a 12-pounder will take 15 hours. I’m know we’ll have consistency as we’re cooking.”
That consistency of the base product helps Warth and his team to ensure they provide the same quality of barbecue that their customers have come to expect—every time.
“We really believe in long term relationships, from soup vendors to paper good vendors, and we rely on partners who take the time to understand our business,” Warth says. “There’s been a progression in our society from having good relationships to just making transactions, but when you have a relationship with someone, then you can fix any transaction that might go wrong. So that’s really important.”