For Houstonians…You can take away our freedom.
You can take away our work. But you can’t take away our barbecue.
And Grant Pinkerton of Pinkerton’s Barbecue is here to make sure of it.
For many in the Houston Heights area, from the time they first opened in a trailer, then a brick and mortar location in 2016, Pinkerton’s Barbecue is somewhat of an institution.
Life was good. Business was booming. Each and every morning, the pit masters came in early to cook all the food for the day, and then customers would simply go through the line, order their brisket, ribs, sausage, or chicken, based on what was available and watch their meat get cut right in front of them. That’s it. No food made to order. And, when it was gone, it was gone.
But all that changed in recent weeks when dining in and human interaction became a thing of the past and the line-style barbecue that Pinkerton’s is famous for became an impossibility.
So, Grant and his team shut down the restaurant and along with it their passion for serving up some of the best barbecue in Texas.
But that only lasted for a week. As they say you can’t keep a good man (or good barbecue joint) down. Grant’s employees needed a steady income so he and his team reinvented Pinkerton’s Barbecue in a period just short of a week with a new short order menu, new phone system to handle incoming orders, a partnership with Door Dash for delivery, a new website to handle online orders, and expanded hours to accommodate all of us who are now stuck at home.
While the new menu was somewhat of a departure, Grant says that the response on social media has been overwhelming. People are hugely supportive and the response to the food has also been great – the wings already have a cult following. When his customers wanted more of the traditional barbecue items from the past, he has since incorporated some of those back into the menu. He added breakfast tacos for Saturday mornings which have been a huge hit with pre-orders starting each Wednesday.
The changes to their menu is just the tip of the iceberg. Grant is well aware that it takes everyone helping to bring Houston back to what it used to be. That’s why Grant and his team aren’t just focused on how to provide food to paying customers – they are cooking even more food to donate to COVID-19 testing centers all over the city. “We are just doing our part to help those who are putting themselves at risk to help get this thing under control,” says Grant.
For Grant, when it comes to health and safety, nothing is spared. When customers come in, their food is packaged and waiting for them to minimize contact between employees and customers. His team meets each week to review safety standards. The pens that are used to sign receipts are brand new for each customer – the first person to touch the pen is the customer signing the check. Grant says, “My priority is the health and safety of my employees and customers – and that goes way beyond money.”
There’s no doubt that Pinkerton Barbecue’s revenue is not what it used to be. Before all of this, Pinkerton’s was accustomed to doing a transaction a minute – and obviously that’s no longer possible with the new menu and business model.
For Grant and his team, like all of us, these are scary times, but he is a true optimist and says it has been fun for he and his team to see how quickly they could pivot, bringing a totally new restaurant concept and new menu to life in a very short time. He also feels good that his team is working and able to keep their minds off of what is going on in the world and on their ability to create.
When things do get back to a “new” normal, he knows that there is no question that he will need to add these new menu items and breakfast tacos into the mix and he will add them to the menu at his second location, which is currently under construction and slated to open in San Antonio this fall.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY AND LATER:
Support Pinkerton’s Barbecue now! Place your order online, by phone, or through Door Dash.
And if you like what you taste (and we know you will), continue to patronize Pinkerton’s even when things get back to normal.
Grant says that’s when they will need your help even more. He realizes that everyone’s wallet will be a little thinner. He says “it’s just like in a hurricane, it is so easy to help people muck out their homes immediately after the hurricane hits, but the real help is needed in the weeks and months that follow.”
The responsibility for 34 employees (when they are operating at full capacity) weighs heavy on his mind. He says “If you figure each employee has 2-3 dependents tied to that job, that’s over 100 people that we are responsible for. We’re going to need everyone’s help to recover from this.”
Recovery truly is an all-hands-on-deck endeavor. Anything and everything we can do, no matter how small, can have a lasting impact on helping Houston rally, and emerge better than ever before.