LC’s Bar-B-Q: Making a local restaurant a national phenomenon

LC's Bar-B-Q has used online reviews to create a national craze from the comfort of Kansas City.

LC's Bar-B-Q has used online reviews to create a national craze from the comfort of Kansas City.

Every successful company has its “secret sauce” — a product, process, or person who gives the business a unique advantage. For LC’s Bar-B-Q, the “secret sauce” is, well, actually sauce.

Founded in 1984 by L.C. Richardson (now 83), the restaurant has become one of the premiere destinations in Kansas City’s famous barbecue scene. In fact, nearly four decades after it first opened its doors at 5800 Blue Parkway, LC’s Bar-B-Q is now much more than a favorite dive for local BBQ snobs — it’s a national destination for vacationers and folks taking BBQ tours (yep, that’s a thing).

“We get people from all over the country,” says Tausha Hammett, the founder’s granddaughter, who handles HR. “We get a lot of catering requests, too, including NFL football teams in town to play the Kansas City Chiefs. We like to feed the visiting teams because barbecue is really filling!”

LC’s rise to national fame as a local business is rare, but the recipe for success was pretty simple:

  • First, the restaurant built word-of-mouth awareness by focusing on delivering great food. To do this, LC’s put a ton of focus on its sauce, ribs, and burnt ends.
  • Second, the company engaged with customers on Yelp, Google, and other consumer review sites to learn what customers like and dislike, and ensure that patrons can find LC’s when they’re searching online for great Kansas City barbecue.

“We’re getting more and more customers from out of state because of the work we do reading and responding to online reviews,” Tausha says. “There are literally thousands of people every week looking for great Kansas City barbecue, and we hear over and over that they read good customer reviews and decided to give us a try.”

These days, every small business has to pay attention to online reviews because 92% of consumers read reviews, and 88% trust them as much as personal recommendations. But reading and responding to every review can be overwhelming for busy small business owners and operators.

To save time, Tausha uses Womply Reputation Defense to monitor and manage LC’s online reviews from a single place. Since activating Womply in 2016, Tausha has read and responded to every single online review posted about LC’s — hundreds and hundreds of them. She does it because customer feedback is priceless, and she recognizes the importance of customer engagement in building a great local business.

“When I was presented with Womply, I was ecstatic,” Tausha says. “I want to know how our customers feel in their own words—verbatim—so we can know what’s working and find ways to improve. Customers want to know that you hear them, and Womply helps me connect with them without wasting time or effort.”

By refining the restaurant’s product and getting the word out via online reviews, LC’s BBQ sauce started getting noticed beyond the local crowd. Impressed tourists wanted to take sauce home, so the restaurant started bottling and selling it. That grew into distribution deals with local grocery stores in Kansas and Missouri, and an e-commerce option so anyone in the country can order online.

Today, LC’s is a pop-culture phenomenon, with patrons snapping pictures of the restaurant’s famous dining room meat smoker and posting them online, tour buses dumping off hordes of hungry newcomers every Saturday, and people coast-to-coast ordering LC’s famous sauce online. LC’s is proof that in the Information Age, even local restaurants with one location can attract a national customer base.

If you’re in the Kansas City area, be sure to get the full LC’s experience, and keep an eye out for a new location soon at Truman Corners in Grandview, Missouri. If you’re just a big fan of good BBQ, order a bottle of LC’s sauce.

If you’re a busy restaurateur who needs a simpler way to manage your online business reputation, ask your credit card processor about Womply or request a demo.