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Willy Mathew's of Dickey's Barbecue PitWilly Mathew has worked in restaurants his whole life. First he was a restaurant consultant in East and South Africa, and later as the Franchise Director for Dickey’s Barbecue Pit — a Texas-based company where he immediately saw huge potential. As PR Newswire notes, Dickey’s continues to expand with new stores nationwide. So when the opportunity arose for Mathew to take over three locations in the Chicago area, he jumped at the chance.

Since he took ownership in 2016, Mathew says his Chicago Dickey’s Barbecue Pit ezCater orders have multiplied ten times over. The Texas-style pulled pork, chicken, and chopped beef brisket is unlike anything else in the Chicago catering scene. But, as he explains, he also credits the success to what he’s learned in training his teams, gaining customer trust, and getting catering orders right every single time.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I review the store numbers every morning to see what stores need some coaching operationally and to make sure financials are in line. Because of ezCater, I’ve been busy with catering every morning, too. Some submissions come at 3am, and we have to fit that into our schedule. Sometimes a store will have four events on one day, so I’ll help with that location. After the lunch hour, I catch up with all managers to see what needs to be done with the rest of the day, and make a plan for the rest of the week.

What’s your favorite menu item?

I’m an immigrant from Kenya, and we love meat there, especially beef. So at Dickey’s, it’s our brisket. We slow smoke our meats, low, for 14 hours. It’s very tender. So that’s my favorite.

What makes Dickey’s Barbecue Pit’s food unique for Chicago?

There aren’t many Texas-style barbecue places in Chicago. In Dallas, there’s a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit on almost every corner. We did a lot of community marketing to promote awareness.

What makes Chicago catering unique?

Chicago is a very diverse community with people from all walks of life. People here tend to like trying new things. And barbecue is different in different parts of the U.S. Specializing in the Texas style of barbecue entices customers to try us. The sauce for Texas style barbecue has a spicy zing to it.

What do you feel has most led to your restaurants’  recent success?

I’ve been in the restaurant business all my life. And so I can walk into a restaurant and know if it’s making money or not within 15 minutes. These restaurants weren’t staffed with the right people. So in the beginning, I worked over 100 hours a week to staff and train. That helped.

With Chicago catering, a lot of our growth has been about our regular customers. They come into the stores now, like what they see, and then come back to us for catering. That’s helped us a lot in the last six to eight months.

What advice can you pass on for caterers looking to succeed?

Catering is not the same as a restaurant. You cannot make mistakes with catering. You have to get it right from the beginning. Keep in touch with the guests before the event date, plan so that you have enough time to set up, and get there on time. Once there, provide excellent service.

Catering is not the same as a restaurant... You have to get it right from the beginning. Click To Tweet

And a piece of advice for ezCater customers?

The ezCater portal makes things simple. The only things we sometimes miss are clear directions. With Chicago catering, offices are everywhere. Providing details so we can get there on time is important. Tell us if there is parking and where to park. Those details can cause the orders to be late if unclear or can be very helpful.

Also, we like to teach that delivery for over 30 people is a lot of food. Not everybody at an office eats at the same time, so food tends to get cold. We suggest disposable chafing dishes (for a minimal charge) to keep food hot. Remembering that is an option maintains the quality of the food.

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Jacqueline Raposo

Written by:

Jacqueline Raposo

Jacqueline Raposo is an expert interviewer. Her over 400 articles, essays, and podcast episodes feature Missy Robbins, Daniel Boulud, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson, and other such award-winning chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, managers, and hospitality personnel. Find her at www.jacquelineraposo.com or as @wordsfoodart.

Posted in: Food at WorkRestaurant

Tagged with: BBQ, Catering, Chicago, IL