Who says you can’t go home? After opening and operating Jake’s BBQ and Catering in Lynden, Wash., for a decade, Brian Poag and his family decided to sell the restaurant and move to the Southwest. After a few years, the Northwest called them back and when they returned, Poag found that the restaurant was available to buy back. Poag and Jake’s Chef Andy Nguyen explain how they transformed the restaurant and how they’ve found success:
What do you love about your business?
Poag: “I love building a brand and how a mission continues to be the driving force daily. There is always room to get better as a leader. There is always a way to perfect your offerings. I love the fact that my wife and kids have all worked in our business. And last but certainly not least, I love BBQ! I mean, I get to go to my business and cook, taste, and serve some of the best BBQ that I have ever had. I love the look on new guests’ faces that eat our BBQ for the first time and they can’t believe that BBQ is this good in Lynden, Washington (we are about as far from the south as you can get in the lower 48).”
Nguyen: “I love the relationship we have as a team; the good, bad, the grit, the ugly…we all go through it together and we all support each other to push ourselves to be better. The ultimate goal is to give our guests the best experience possible! I also love working closely with Brian & Tanya [Brian’s wife], they are literally the explanation of “working owners.” We can bounce ideas good, bad, and critique each other professionally because we all know how it feels to be in each other’s shoes. It’s very rewarding! Plus, lunch doesn’t suck.”
What’s the most interesting/oddest/coolest thing to happen to your business?
Poag: “I think operating in this pandemic is an obvious answer, but I will go with something else. We started Jake’s in 2008 and ran a successful operation for 10 years. We sold it in 2017 and decided to move to a warmer climate. We ended up in Southern California, then moved to Arizona. I had the opportunity to work for a great family-owned restaurant chain, Lucille’s Smokehouse Barbeque and I loved it there. Great people and culture and they were incredibly good to me! We were away from Lynden, Wash., for a couple of years and decided to move back. In our time away, Jake’s had closed after about a year. I contacted the building owners and we were able to open back up. We remodeled and we partnered up with Andy Nguyen, an extremely talented chef in the area. His passion for fantastic BBQ has really elevated what we had served in the past. I am sure it has happened before, but I have not heard of anyone selling, moving away, moving back and reopening one of their old restaurants in the exact same spot. Kind of crazy?!”
Nguyen: “I think the coolest thing about our business is the following: when I started with Jake’s, Brian had told me we had a great local following and he wasn’t kidding. It’s funny, as we speak, one of our servers, Kayla, just took an order for a full rack of baby back ribs to-go. The gentleman could not leave his house, so he had a local taxi service come pick it up and bring it to him, I mean, that is dedication! What a trip. The amount of phone calls we get about Brian’s cornbread is just stupid.”
What was the biggest business challenge you overcame?
Nguyen: “Ha! I think this question is still currently in process…Covid-19. With everything going on right now, we are all challenged; our neighbors, our friends and even our guests. Luckily, we had great procedures already in place, so all the obstacles we were ready for. Now, we’re just working on more opportunities to bring great BBQ to you; our Cambros really help us with that ability! Stay tuned!”
Poag: “I have navigated a restaurant through 9/11, the 2008 financial meltdown and now we find ourselves battling Covid-19. Current times are so challenging for many reasons. Change is occurring at such a rapid pace. Information, guidance, mitigation disease spread and customer preferences are all changing daily, and as it does, it changes how we plan and execute in our business. The acceleration of technology is staggering right now. Our biggest challenge right now is staying on top of all of those things, because there is no margin error. A single misstep could set us back.”
What Cambro Products help make your business work?
Nguyen: “Cambro is a big part of our restaurant and probably a huge part of any restaurant Brian and I have ever worked in. From Camwear® Pans, Camracks® to insulated transport units, we’re able to prep, cook, cater and deliver food anywhere without sacrificing heat or flavor. It’s an ease of mind to be able to do a complete off-site wedding knowing our food is kept at precise/safe temperatures. My personal favorite are our UPCS400, but our Camracks come in close second!”
Poag: “We use food storage boxes, Camshelving®, food containers and hot boxes for catering. Fantastic products that we depend on daily. Versatile and efficient, they help us be at our best! Thank you for the great quality products!”
Links for Jake’s BBQ and Catering
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ADRIANA DESIDERIO IS THE DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER AT CAMBRO.