December 7, 2012
Barbecue restaurant opens in Riverside Plaza
Retired construction worker sets up Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise
Allan Bennett switched from a hard hat to a chef’s hat Wednesday as he opened Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Riverside Plaza in Cortland.
The restaurant, a Texas-based franchise that’s better known in the South, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“I’m a retired contractor and I always wanted to do this,” Bennett, 53, said. “I like to eat barbecue.”
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit offers hickory smoked meats, such as beef brisket, pulled pork and ham, that are slow cooked and served fast, Bennett said.
The restaurant also serves traditional barbecue sides, such as potato salad, baked beans and fried okra.
Bennett said he chose to open a Dickey’s franchise because he wanted to do business with people who know what they’re doing.
“I always thought barbecue would be a good selling food product,” he said.
In 1994, Bennett founded AB Construction and Roofing Inc. of Whitney Point, which his children have since taken over.
There are a lot of similarities between owning a construction business and a restaurant, said Bennett, who lives in Whitney Point.
“They’re both service industries,” he said, remarking that good employees provide good service.
Bennett, who grew up on a farm where barbecue was often served, decided to open his restaurant in Cortland partly because of Cortland’s farming tradition.
Bennett was also attracted to the area’s industry, SUNY Cortland and the easy Interstate 81 access.
The business employs 16 people and could hire more, depending on customer demand, Bennett said.
The restaurant’s first day went very well, said Jim Hickin, the restaurant’s general manager.
“We had a line for most of the day,” he said, and about 30 people had already returned for another helping by Thursday afternoon. The first 100 customers on Wednesday received a free sandwich.
“That gives me a good feeling when I see the same face two days in a row,” Hickin said.
Bennett and his three managers spent three weeks at Barbecue U, Dickey’s training facility in Dallas, Texas.
“My managers all have extensive food service experience,” Bennett said.
Hickin, 49, was previously the general manager of Kampai Japanese Steakhouse in the Broome County town of Vestal.
“I’m the guy who brought sushi to Binghamton,” Hickin said.
There’s more regulation when working for a franchise, he said, but the corporation knows what works.
“The food is absolutely perfect because of that,” Hickin said.
The restaurant opened on schedule, Bennett said, after two months renovating the restaurant’s space, which was previously occupied by an H&R Block. H&R Block moved to a nearby storefront in Riverside Plaza.
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