Friday, April 2, 2010

The Barbecue Index -- an Obscure Economic Indicator That's Improving

A little-known economic indicator, the Barbecue Index further confirms the ongoing strength of the recovery from the 2008-2009 recession. Long regarded as "comfort food", even barbecue restaurants suffered precipitous declines in business after the Lehman Brothers debacle of September 2008.

Steve Francis, owner of Pinkie's Barbecue in Hermosa Beach, CA confirmed this week that the economy is indeed on the mend. "January 2010 was our best month ever", according to Steve, the speaker at a meeting of The Rotary Club of Hermosa Beach that I attended this week. Steve and his story have so much in common with members of Chief Executive Boards International, I just had to tell it here.

Steve opened Pinkie's in May 2008, after a failed attempt at "retirement", following the sale of another restaurant business. "I just got bored", he said, and upon finding a failing restaurant for sale, he created Pinkie's from scratch, based on an idea that's been rattling around in his head for years. "With the other business sold, I finally had time to put it together", Steve said. So he renovated the space, got his menu and branding together, and opened Pinkie's in just 21 days. Two months later, he was breaking even.

Then, in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008, "The world as we knew it changed", says Steve. He had to lay off his managers and go back into the kitchen to conserve cash. "In January and February of 2009, people were just shell shocked", Steve said. Consumer spending in Hermosa Beach, where median home prices topped $1 million in 2006, was not just off -- it was comatose. At least as measured by the Barbecue Index.

Steve's on top of his numbers. As a result, he managed to finish 2009 with only a slight operating loss -- most of it suffered in the first quarter. December was a slow month, as well, resulting from both Christmas and New Year's falling on weekends, the busiest time in his business. We're working on a seasonal adjustment factor for the Barbecue Index.

So he, like myself, is pleased that business is roaring back in 2010. It will take awhile for broad economic statistics to continue to catch up, and for operators like Steve to get confident enough to bring back one or two of those managers he had to lay off. As that happens, the next leg of this recovery will kick in. If you're betting against continuing economic recovery, think again. The Barbecue Index would suggest otherwise. Business owners' attitudes took an about-face in January 2010. It appears most people are looking at 2010 as a "do-over", and that will add fuel to the recovery, as well.

By the way, if you're in Hermosa Beach over lunch or dinnertime, do be sure and stop at Pinkie's Barbecue for a great meal. Ask for Steve -- except on Thursdays, now that he's back to playing golf.

PS: If you're looking for updates on the Barbecue Index, you'll find them only here --

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International

Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it


  1. Here's and update for you Terry, March was another record month and we will show a profit for the first quarter of 2010.
    Oink, oink!

  2. We are proud to know that you have stuck to the ideas of your dreams.
    Love, Mom/Dad


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