Dick’s Last Resort
Issue Summer 13
“‘Fun for all and all in fun’ is the attitude at the core of every Dick’s Last Resort (DLR) Restaurant,” President Ralph W. McCracken says. These outrageous, irreverent restaurants have for some 28 years been mixing good food and drink with a unique way of entertaining and making memories for guests.
From the moment guests enter one of DLR’s 13 restaurants, they find themselves in a self-proclaimed “Three-Ring-Circus” where the servers do much more than just take orders and deliver food. That is why all of Dick’s servers don’t merely interview for their jobs; rather, they actually audition for them. “Our servers are happy and naturally gregarious,” McCracken says. “They are also creative and adjust their keen sense of humor to their audience. In a restaurant with an average of over 300 to 400 seats, you are going to have a lot of different personalities and different age groups, so our servers must to be able to adapt to that environment.”
That simple fact guarantees that every DLR has its own personality and character. Although there is a common theme of fun and tongue-in-cheek humor, the service staff of each location behaves like members of a large, fun and slightly obnoxious family. And, of course, every restaurant family is a bit different. “We have restaurants in such diverse markets as Gatlinburg (Tenn.) and Las Vegas, Nev.” McCracken explains. “The concept works in both markets because people just want to have fun when they are in Dick’s and we let them do exactly that, with our help, of course.”
On a recent trip to Dick’s in Chicago, a veteran server demonstrated to McCracken just how long-lasting of an impression the restaurant makes on its patrons. “He showed me a photo of a six-year-old girl with one of Dick’s tall paper hats on her head; it was actually taken on her sixth birthday party at Dick’s,” McCracken says. “Then he also showed me another picture of the same young lady taken the night before while celebrating her 21st birthday at Dick’s. She obviously had a vivid memory of the great time she had when she was only six and so she came back to celebrate again with a few friends and beers.”
Although DLR prides itself on its fun atmosphere, it is equally proud of the high quality and freshness of its food, which also contributes to the memorable experience for guests. “We use quality products and Dick’s guests recognize that fact,” McCracken says. “They seem to recognize that they are really getting much more than they’re paying for, which enriches the whole dining experience. And we use real cloth napkins, too.”
“Our guests are totally entertained by the server in this fun, sarcastic atmosphere,” McCracken notes. “Our guests may not specifically remember what they had to eat a month or two after dining with us, but they do remember that it was good and some great memories were made with friends and family.”
The menu varies slightly by location, so an item might be available in Boston – such as “Lobsta” – that is not available in San Antonio. But all locations have the “Dolly,” a large, juicy chicken breast, and the “Fryd Shrimpies.” Lunch menus are printed while the “Dinna” menu is displayed on a chalkboard and items are explained verbally by each server in DLR fashion, with a little attitude and a lot of humor thrown in for good measure.
GROWING THE BRAND
DLR is all about fun, food, laughs and also location. To grow the concept, the company looks for what McCracken calls “A-plus locations,” which he defines as sites that attract people from all over the country. Wherever folks are on vacation, at a business conference, attending sporting events or having fun, that is where DLR needs to be located.
“Our location in Boston is our smallest, with only 4,000 square feet, but we also have restaurants up to 15,000 square feet,” McCracken explains, “and we love outside patios.”
DLR is a fun concept, but it is ultimately a business with 1,000 employees. “There is definitely an established ‘fun culture’ in our business model, but at the end of the day, we are in the restaurant business,” McCracken says. “We seem to have all this fun and still make money with our restaurants, averaging over $4 million a year in sales.”