Pal's Sudden Service

A Helping Hand

Fred “Pal” Barger has done a lot for his hometown of Kingsport, Tennessee.

The founder of the quick-service chain Pal’s Sudden Service recently donated more than $1 million to help build an athletic field house and scoreboard for his alma mater Dobyns-Bennett High School; to erect an automotive training center at the Northeast State Community College; and to build a carousel in the middle of downtown Kingsport.

The Customer Service Five

It’s mid-September and Thom Crosby is on the road again. Every six months, Crosby, the CEO of Pal’s Sudden Service, a 26-unit chain with stores across Tennessee and Virginia, joins Pal’s founder Fred Barger for a road trip. The pair visit all 26 stores, leading quality and system audits at each stop.

“Everything from speed of service to friendliness at the window,” Crosby says.

Pal's Sudden Service Recognized As "Audacious"

What do Dr. Dre’s Beats audio products company and an Oregon doughnut brand have in common with Pal’s Sudden Service, a regional burger concept? They are on the list of Inc. magazine’s “25 Most Audacious Companies.”

The list defines the companies as “bold, courageous, and even heroic. They see a better way to do something and work to make it happen, fearlessly committed to not only making their vision a reality but also spreading that vision.” 

Final Piece of the Puzzle

The best drive thrus run like machines. Simple goals are met over and over: Orders go out quickly, the food is delivered fresh, and the right orders get to the right cars. But in the drive thru, pressure can run high and the smallest mistakes can prove catastrophic, backing up lines and spelling disaster for both customers and the restaurant’s bottom line.

Pal's Sudden Service Credited for Millions in Growth for A&W

One of Canada's fastest-growing quick-service restaurant chains, with more than 700 restaurants, has significantly reduced its drive-thru service times by 33 percent using what was learned at Pal’s Business Excellence Institute (BEI).  

As a result, A&W Canada has increased drive-thru sales by approximately $45 million dollars over the past few years since implementing procedures learned at Pal’s BEI. 

The Drive-Thru Fixer-Upper

On a recent visit to shop his competition, operator Thom Crosby saw disappointment after disappointment in the drive thru. Bad customer service while placing and paying for his order, poorly dressed employees, and backed-up cars plagued operation after operation.

But to Crosby, the experience was more than just a bad lunch. It epitomized all that can go wrong with a broken drive thru.

The Trust Factor

Now that social media has become a ubiquitous part of society, a simple click of a button from an unhappy customer can tarnish the reputation of any business.

The same is just as true for a displeased or untrustworthy employee. As such, ensuring employee satisfaction, security, and training has never been more important.

Share the Knowledge (and the Wealth)

Gaining insight into what makes their competitors tick can give quick-serve executives valuable strategic advantages. But while sharing competitive information might seem counterintuitive to the industry’s top CEOs, some companies have found that throwing open their doors and inviting rivals in can have its benefits.

A Tennessee-based burger brand has been doing this for more than a decade. Pal’s Sudden Service introduced its Pal’s Business Excellence Institute (BEI) in Kingsport, Tennessee, in 2000 after it won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

The Tennessee Titan

National franchises are growing their sales by millions after visiting one regional burger chain.

Most businessmen study the leaders of their industry to gather tips on growth strategies. But many national quick-service chains are seeking advice from a regional burger chain populating rural towns in East Tennessee.

And the advice they’re getting seems to be working.

Pal’s Sudden Service has become something of a legend in the quick-serve arena, and for the last decade has shared its strategies with nonprofit organizations and businesses—including other quick serves—through its Pal’s Business Excellence Institute.