There are three things the people of Dallas eat: burgers, Mexican food and barbecue. That’s according to restaurateur Larry Lavine. As the founder of Chili’s, he’s done burgers; and he did Mexican at Tia’s Tex-Mex. “Now it’s barbecue’s turn,” he says. For his latest venture (and first fast casual), the industry vet, with nearly 40 years experience, converted a clothing store into the 13,000-square-foot Ten 50 BBQ, which has been serving central Texas-style barbecue since August.
The restaurant has guests lining up outside—literally. Instead of ordering at a counter, diners queue up and order outside from the carving pit set up near the smokers. Known for his simple, fanatical and no-rules way of operating, Lavine chose the traffic flow for maximum impact. “When you see the meat cooking outside, you see the fire and the pit, it adds to the experience. You know it’s real and not microwaved,” he says. (To protect patrons from the elements, the line is covered and equipped with misting fans and heaters.)
The meats—brisket, ribs, sausage, pulled pork and more—are weighed and put on a tray as guests make their way inside to choose scratchmade sides and drinks before paying and grabbing one of the almost 300 seats.
Ten 50 can get away with a higher average check of $15 to $18 because, says Lavine, it’s purchasing “better meat” than others. “Food costs are a little higher than the typical fast casual,” he says. “But we’re geared up for high volume and lower labor.”
So what’s next? With off-premise sales key in the competitive barbecue market, Ten 50 is getting ready to launch takeout and will follow with a catering program in the coming months. Once that’s running smoothly, Lavine plans more locations.