Slow-cooked barbecue was not a good fit for the fast-paced lunch crowd at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Lunch business was lagging, says Leland Avellino, corporate executive chef and pitmaster. Customer feedback indicated the mainstay meat-heavy BBQ platters were too filling and time-consuming to eat at lunch. “We looked at restaurant trends, at items we could execute quickly, and bowls were everywhere,” Avellino says. So he set out to create a lighter, more portable lunch option for on-the-go diners. “The bowls open up barbecue to everybody,” he says.
A menu tour
In developing the bowls, Avellino leveraged ingredients and preps already on the menu. The Black & White Bowl has a base of Cuban-style black beans and rice, while the Sweet & Green features whipped sweet potatoes and collard greens. Both come with a choice of pit-smoked pulled pork, chicken or brisket. “We want the bowls to provide a tour of the menu; a chance for a customer to have the whole barbecue experience in one dish,” he says.
Shrinking portions, shrinking menu
To lighten up lunch, Avellino decreased portion sizes for sides and meats to 3 ounces and added salad to the two bowls. Everything is packed in a black plastic clamshell bowl for takeout—the only new SKU Dinosaur had to add. The bowls are also available for dine-in lunch customers, along with sandwiches and salads.
Dinosaur’s Baltimore location launched a Fast Pass Lunch in March, a planned chainwide initiative. On weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., everything on the streamlined menu has a guaranteed 15-minute service time. Diners can call ahead for takeout, or come in for table service. Along with the bowls, the Fast Pass menu includes three sandwiches, assorted sides and a downsized portion of ribs or chicken—all priced at $9.95.
A bump in business
Lunch traffic and sales have steadily increased since the bowls were rolled out in February, says Avellino. He attributes the uptick to a menu that hits a broader audience and eliminates the veto vote from lighter eaters and rushed diners. Right now, lunch is split about 50-50 between takeout and dine-in at urban locations, and delivery has also ramped up via the addition of several third-party services.
Avellino’s mission is to “stretch the boundaries in barbecue” by exploring more on-trend global preparations. This spring, he’s showcasing an emerging Asian cuisine by introducing a Korean porchetta, pit smoked like all of Dinosaur’s meats but accented with Korean flavors.