It’s the stuff of many barbecue fans’ dreams: a crispy, crunchy, deeply caramelized, and often exclusive product known as burnt ends. But they’re no longer hard to get —as long as you live near a Famous Dave’s, that is.
The brand rolled out the new burnt ends products last month to its locations nationwide, and not just as a limited-time offer. The permanent menu item, known as “The Pitmaster’s Secret,” is now available in dishes like the Burnt Ends-N-Rib Combo and the Burnt Ends Sandwich.
Burnt ends—which come from the cut-off ends of smoked brisket—were, up until recently, an item that many restaurants struggled to menu, due to the challenge of creating enough supply to meet customer demand.
“What typically happened in the good ole’ days is some restaurants would serve them, but then run out fairly early in the day, because it’s just not that much [supply],” says Famous Dave’s CEO John Gilbert III. “It became a very special and I guess significant part of any authentic barbecue restaurant.”
Thanks to its process of smoking brisket in-house—a change that went into effect at the brand last summer—customers can have as much of it as they want, whenever they want it.
Not only does this please barbecue fanatics and occasional barbecue eaters alike, but the new menu addition also helps Famous Dave’s communicate its emphasis on authenticity, Gilbert says.
“It reinforces something that’s really important for us to continue to hit on: We’re a scratch kitchen,” he says. "We make everything in that restaurant kitchen. … Burnt ends are a terrific expression of that scratch kitchen, which is very unique.”
He says, to his knowledge, Famous Dave’s is the only restaurant in its category serving the product on the menu.
To showcase the burnt ends, the brand launched a new advertising campaign. Gilbert says it differs greatly from past advertising campaigns in terms of tone and message, showcasing founder Dave Anderson as a “barbecue genius."
“It’s very artisanal. We focus on the smoker, Dave tells his story in his own words, he’s not over the top,” Gilbert says. “He’s very straightforward, and I think it’s just a real upgrade from the older … advertising we were doing before.”
The brand also overhauled its menu, creating a design that Gilbert says is simpler and cleaner.
And though the brand is developing and testing other items to add to its menu—like barbecue tacos and a beef brisket burger—much of its focus remains on expansion, both at home and abroad.
Last month, Famous Dave’s opened its first unit in Puerto Rico, and Gilbert says it was one of the biggest opening sales days in the brand’s history. The success has the brand eyeing further international expansion in Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico, he says.
He also says the global love of barbecued meats bodes well for the concept internationally. “Whether it’s pork or beef or chicken,” Gilbert says, “there is no question that that is a big opportunity, particularly when it’s scratch-cooked.”
By Mary Avant