Every four weeks, a new class matriculates into Barbecue University, the training program for Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants Inc. This training is required for new owner-operators and offered to store general managers as well as mandatory for new hires in corporate operations, franchise directors, and trainers. This week, Dickey's celebrates its last class of 2015 as they begin their journey through Barbecue University.

On average, each class has approximately 15 students, never more than 20. The course is a concentrated four-week program that includes in-store and classroom learning. At the start of the program, each student is given a rubric of the entire course, an operations standard manual and an activity packet to boost engagement throughout their training. The rubric is broken up into weekly activities and modules, which a full-time training staff of five facilitates. "We try to have a different trainer for every learning style," says Chris Kelley, dean of Barbecue University. "Addressing the different needs of the many students who come through our program helps us ensure they receive a thorough and well-rounded curriculum that's tailored to them." In addition, home office team members from various departments including training, marketing, operations, legal, IT, and more meet, teach, and interact with the students throughout the program so they fully understand the tools, opportunities, and support that the home office provides them with on an ongoing basis.

The last class of 2015 has 12 students, six of which are new franchise owners and six who will work in corporate operations. Bob Martin, the new franchise director overseeing stores in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, has nine years of franchise experience with buffet-style and full service restaurants. He is a great example of the character type that Dickey's actively recruits. A firm handshake and an optimistic leadership style helped Martin progress through the ranks of other foodservice franchises, when he was recruited to work at Dickey's. "This is an exciting time to partner with Dickey's," Martin says. "The brand is growing rapidly, and we have the opportunity to become a global force and build the future of this company together."

Brannen "Mack" Stine, another student in this class, is a franchisee who has recently signed a five-store development agreement in Florida. A 25-year old college graduate, he comes from a family of golf course owners. "I chose Dickey's after researching several franchises in trade magazines," Brannen says. "Dickey's was rated the fastest growing franchise, and I truly feel I made the right decision. Dickey's home office has been so supportive from training to construction to marketing, that I know I'm in good hands." Brannen's first store will open in Southeast Orlando, close to Medical City.

"At Dickey's, we are passionate about the art of great barbecue," says Roland Dickey, Jr., CEO of Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. "Barbecue University instills that passion in our operations and in-store teams from day one, so that we can continue to provide great quality barbecue to our guests nationwide the Dickey's way and enable new owner-operators and corporate team members to be successful."

At the end of the course, students will take written and hands-on final exams, then will have a graduation ceremony in which the entire home office applauds and celebrates their hard work before sending them out fully equipped to take on their new role.

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