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What are burnt ends?

I immersed myself in a meal of Burnt Ends Brisket BBQ at a Famous Dave's restaurant in Sioux City, Iowa, for the first time two weeks ago and now I'm hooked on them for the rest of my life. But what are they, and where did they originate from? That depends. Burnt ends are usually defined as the tougher, drier, oddly-shaped end pieces of cooked briskets. But they can also be cut from premium fully-cooked whole brisket. It just depends on whether the pit master or restaurant chef has enough to meet the consumer demand.

Where did they originate?

The exact origination of BBQ Burnt End is debatable. James Boo, a writer for Serious Eats.com (August 4, 2010), traces their origination back to Kansas City BBQ joints written about by renowned author Calvin Trillin. Once Burnt Ends were given free to customers, but now you can find them on the menu of well known New York Daisy May's BBQ (daisymaysbbq.com). In the limited-service restaurant business, the Burnt Ends product is dominated by Famous Dave's.

Innovative product "Mega Hit" QSR potential

As co-developer of Popcorn Chicken, I believe BBQ Burnt Ends has the potential to be the next big QSR mega-hit — like Popcorn Chicken, Chicken Nuggets, Boneless Wings and the McRib. As I have previously stated, some of the most successful innovative QSR meat products have originated out of necessity and/or "value-added" products — and BBQ burnt ends meets those two criteria. Although Famous Dave's gets credit for popularizing them on a QSR menu, I don't think they have the store count to make them a true mega-hit. And after contacting their Fort Collins, Colo., store, to cater my daughter's wedding reception in March, I was told they were a promotion item and possibly not available next March. Bummer!

National promotion requirements

In order to become a national phenomenon, it will require a major chain like Wendy's, Burger King, McDonald's, or KFC to place them on their menus and support them through national media. The strategy would be to promote them as an LTO offering, learn from the good and bad of the LTO, and then make it a regular menu item, or cycle it as the McRib is promoted. Of course, the product will need to be manufactured and cut from whole briskets — no different than boneless wings.

The QSR industry has searched for a commanding BBQ product for decades, and Burnt Ends could finally be that new innovative BBQ product. Since BBQ is one of the most craved American menu items, Burnt Ends fills an enormous menu gap that can be both profitable and craveable.

QSR innovative menu challenge

I have frequently challenged QSR executives to identify and execute menu innovation, but most choose to stay with the low-risk status quo. Now QSR executives have no excuse not to place this on their menu before Super Bowl 2014. I have provided the concept, offered food innovation process training, and manufacturing expertise to processes it. Let's see which CEO grabs this beef product by the horns, and drive its success! If I remember correctly, KFC's initial Popcorn Chicken six-week LTO generated $20M gross profit. Which CEO wouldn't want that?

Spin-off products

And what about spin-off Burnt End Products that would supplement the profit margins — think Burnt Ends BBQ Beans, Burnt Ends Salads, Burnt Ends Pretzel Bun Sandwiches, Burnt Ends Smothered Sandwiches, Burnt Ends Chicken BBQ, etc.

Dr. Suderman teaches Innovation Workshops in corporate headquarters and convenient regional locations, and speaks internationally on innovation is such countries as Turkey, Korea and Thailand. Contact him at dsuderman@foodbevbiz.com for information on innovation workshops

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Latest posts by Darrel Suderman
Darrel Suderman
Darrel Suderman, Ph.D., is president of Food Technical Consulting and founder of Food Innovation Institute. He has held senior R&D/QA leadership positions at KFC, Boston Market, Church's Chicken and Quiznos and led KFC’s development team of “Popcorn Chicken”, now a $1B international product –invented by Gene Gagliardi.
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