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Erie Times: She’s the leader of the pit

Published: 17 Aug 2017
    <div>She doesn’t cook and she’s not a blood relative to the founders of Dickey’s Barbecue, but Laura Rea Dickey is running the show at the nation’s largest barbecue chain.</div><div><br></div><div>Earlier this year, Laura Rea Dickey was named CEO of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants Inc. — not all that startling until you realize that Rea is her maiden name.</div><div><br></div><div>She’s the 38-year-old wife of Roland Dickey Jr. and daughter-in-law of Roland Dickey Sr., the iconoclastic patriarch of the nation’s largest barbecue chain, which operates a location in Erie’s Liberty Center.</div><div><br></div><div>Her ascension to mistress of the barbecue pit is an anomaly on another front: She’s a terrible cook.</div><div><br></div><div>“That is not the part of the business that I impact, I promise,” she said. “It’s a Dickey’s family tradition that the men cook. So I got on board with that really fast. I can make reservations and a martini, and that’s it.”</div><div><br></div><div>That may be true for the kitchen, but Laura Dickey holds considerable sway when it comes to technology, big data and marketing. In her previous role as Dickey’s chief information officer, she built an eight-year road map for bringing the family’s slow-smoked barbecue business into the lightning-speed digital age.</div><div><br></div><div>Such advanced technology is a must for a company that’s in a torrid expansion mode.</div><div><br></div><div>Four years into it, every restaurant operator can tap into point-of-sale analytics, study data heat maps and market directly to customers via the proprietary Smoke Stack system that Dickey’s codeveloped with iOlap, a Dallas-area big data provider.</div><div><br></div><div>Dickey’s and franchisees can spot what’s working in the 565 stores and what’s not to make adjustments on the fly.</div><div><br></div><div>Customers can order online and have their food delivered by third-party services, such as GrubHub and Doordash. Come September, a customer app will use beaconing technology so that you can pick up your order curbside without getting out of your car.</div><div><br></div><div><br></div><div>Currently, the five company-owned Dickey’s Barbecue Pits, including the original in Dallas, are test driving Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service before it’s rolled out to all of its stores by the end of the year.<br></div><div><br></div><div>Not that long ago, the original flagship was still using a cash register and faxing in sales reports.</div><div><br></div><div>At the beginning of the year, the family formed Dickey’s Capital Group, an umbrella company that owns its various investments including the barbecue company.</div><div><br></div><div>Roland Dickey Jr., 43, moved into the holding company’s top slot and Laura Dickey moved into his.</div><div><br></div><div>“Laura’s a perfectionist. She makes sure all of the details are tended to,” her husband said. “She brings high energy, creative vision that is absolutely remarkable.”</div><div><br></div><div>She’s hardly the lone female running the barbecue business. Twelve of its 14 top execs are women.</div><div><br></div><div>“We’re not a bunch of fat guys grilling meat,” Roland says.</div><div><br></div><div>Last year, Dickey’s opened 87 restaurants, bringing the total to 508 at year end, and it reported systemwide sales of $421 million.</div>        
  
  
Erie Times: She’s the leader of the pit
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