BBQ restaurant on a mission for veterans
By James Foster
Barbeque and patriotism might seem like an odd blend, but for two friends the idea has turned out to be the perfect recipe.
Steve Newton and Bill Kraus decided that they will start a restaurant, but not with the idea of pocketing all of their profits. They figured they’d share whatever they made with a veterans’ support organization. They settled on Wounded Warrior as the beneficiary of their philanthropy and since opening their first store in Glen Burney, Md., they’ve contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to help veterans.
The idea has landed in Tallahassee with the recent opening of a Mission BBQ, located on South Magnolia Drive. The location opened a little more than a month ago and already is becoming a favorite eating spot.
The two owners got into selling food with a lot of business experience. Kraus worked for Under Armour and Newton had 20 years of experience with Outback Steakhouse.
Once they had their concept down pat, they decided that they’ll open their first store on Sept. 11, 2011. The date is symbolic of the horrific terrorist attack on 9/11.
Since opening their first store, the duo hasn’t slowed down. They now have 39 stores and are planning more openings across the country.
The food selection features a mix of cultures from several states. It ranges from spare ribs to salmon and side items that include fries, macaroni and cheese and baked beans. Pulled pork, which is Carolina inspired and smoked in oak wood for 14 hours, is one of the favorites.
While the Tallahassee location is still a novelty, it’s likely to get similar reviews as several of the store’s location around the country. Customers have been generally pleased with the service and the menu choice.
The Tallahassee opening now gives Mission BBQ seven locations in Florida. Expanding the brand is definitely the focus of Newton and Kraus, who are constantly opening stores outside of their Baltimore home base.
“Just for strategically growing our brand, Tallahassee is a good market for us,” said Mike Pasquale, director of operations for the company’s northeast Florida region. “I can tell after being opened for only a month now that the community of Tallahassee is supportive of the veterans here. Everybody that is coming here are very supportive and I know they’re going to have our back on that.”
In part, the concept of supporting veterans is a marketing tool for the business, which relies on word-of-mouth over the traditional form of advertising.
The community is definitely supporting a good cause in Mission BBQ because they seek to separate themselves from other franchises by giving back to a greater cause, said general manager Ryan Morse. He added that the company prides itself on believing in what it stands for which is serving the country in any way it can.
“When people ask me what it’s like to work at Mission BBQ, I tell them that a lot of companies ‘talk the talk’ and we do that as well but the biggest thing is that we care more about ‘walking the walk’,” said Morse. “We really don’t have a marketing department; we don’t spend our money on advertising and things like that. We would much rather spend that money on feeding firefighters and police officers. We really walk the walk.”