Vicki Briganti – CBS 62 Writer / Producer / Editor
It’s quitting time on Friday night. A massive thunderstorm is headed toward metro Detroit. I have a 12 percent coupon burning a hole in my pocket for Famous Dave’s BBQ. Why not risk life and limb for a delicious meal?
My love affair with Famous Dave’s began in 2001 during a “Welcome to Omaha” carry-out meal. At that time, there weren’t any chains near Detroit. Before flying out of Omaha, I had a sit-down meal at a Famous Dave’s restaurant. The waitress presented a comment card with the bill. I wrote, “This food is amazing. Open a franchise in the Detroit area.” And by golly, someone did. In Westland.
I’d drive 45 minutes from Royal Oak to Westland for the four-bone St. Louis style rib platter, which included a corn cobette, corn bread muffin, and two fresh sides. I usually order Famous fries and Wilbur beans, but sometimes I get the Dave’s cheesy mac & cheese (with jalapeno). Spicy and filling.
More locations have popped up over the years. I joined the P.I.G. (Pretty Important Guest) email club. The Piggy Club. That’s where I secured the 12 percent coupon. I receive an email for a free dinner on my birthday. I also have a lunch punch card. Buy six lunch meals Monday through Friday between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. and get your seventh meal free. All honored at the local franchises in Westland, Roseville, Novi, Taylor, and Rochester Hills. I eat at Famous Dave’s BBQ about once a month so I’ve been to all these locations. My favorite is Rochester Hills.
When you walk in the door, you’re greeted with a special sign. It says, “The guest is our job not an interruption of it.” Isn’t that grand? I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of “waiting tables.” The word “wait” is the key word in “waitress” or “waiter.” They wait on you; you tip them. If that’s the job, why am I constantly waiting for the waitress? Waiting to give my order. Waiting for the check. I dine out a lot, so it’s refreshing Famous Dave’s has a sign posted as if to say, “You shouldn’t have to wait for the waiters.” BTW, here’s the tip I feel like leaving when that happens: Don’t make me wait on you.
A Very Important Pig (V.I.P.)
The hospitality credo at the Rochester Hills franchise says, “Guests will return where they feel welcome and comfortable as they would at their own backyard BBQ but without any of the work.” True that. I often dine alone. I hate when the hostess asks me if I’d like to sit at the bar. Hey, lady. If I wanted to sit at the bar, I’d walk in and sit at the bar. I want to sit in a booth like the other paying customers; I don’t want to be treated like a contagion because I’m by myself. Famous Dave’s doesn’t do that. They deliver on their promise to make you feel welcome and comfortable.
I appreciate their customer philosophy so much, I looked into buying a franchise. Start-up costs were $500,000. Since I was shy by about $499,000, I entered their T-shirt contest instead. You could win a free dinner if your phrase was printed on their T-shirts. I submitted: “Eat, drink, and be piggy” and anticipated notification I won a gift card. My hopes were dashed when the winner’s phrase was announced: “Don’t Be ‘Queless.” Clever, but I’ve never seen that on any of their shirts.
Famous Dave’s caters to large crowds. When CBS 62 had an onsite work BBQ, their staff brought over free samples to our conference room for our Bar-B-Crew committee to try. How awesome is that? Famous Dave’s Novi quickly earned our business with their generous selections. Their website claims catering can accommodate groups from 6 to 16,000. I have to question the ability to feed 16,000 people. That’s like feeding everyone at a Jimmy Buffett concert at Pine Knob. Or DTE. Or whatever you call it. Margaritas not included.
You know what else is no longer included? A corn cobette is no longer included in the platter meals. You have to order it as a side. When I was at Famous Dave’s Roseville, our waitress, Famous Jonelle, said, “I’m required to tell you about the corn or I’ll get in trouble.” When I asked how customers were reacting, she said, “Some people are like ‘That sucks, but it’s just corn.’ Other people walk out.”
We did not walk out. I still insist for the quality of the meat on the ribs and the sides included, it’s the best BBQ value in town. To check out their menu, find locations, or join the P.I.G. club, go to famousdaves.com.
>> More Motor City Musing With Vicki Briganti