Dickie Jo’s Burgers
Ste A, 201 E 13th Ave
OK, here’s the idea. This place is sorta like a cross between an old-fashioned diner and In-N-Out Burger (from California). Sounds OK…if you like that sorta thing…and if it is executed properly. Dickie Jo’s got blasted in its opening weeks for bad service, chaotic management, and other foibles. Have those problems been solved yet? More self-importantly, what advice can Mr. Eugenified offer to improve their chances of success?
In the first few weeks, Dickie Jo’s was taken to task on Yelp.com for bad service, chaos at the front counter, long lines, etc. The good news is that those problems are pretty much solved. Waiting times for ordering and delivery of food to table are fairly reasonable. Plus they have setup some sort of Great Wall of Potatoes to keep the line from spilling over into the nearby tables. Similar to a Fuddruckers (Did that place eventually go out of business?). They still seem to have LOTS of staff behind the counter, busy running hither and yon, with only one of them assigned to actually take orders.
The bad news is that overhead menu still is as beautifully designed as any you will ever see…and it’s pretty much impossible to read. Firstly, it’s mounted in the wrong location. The main item, the burger and fries set, is located about 8 feet to your left and three feet above your head. So…uhhh…it’s difficult to see. Sure, I could see it while I was waiting in the potato line, but I’m an idiot, so of course I forget everything when I step up to the register.
Secondly, it’s layout is really confusing. What else is on the menu besides burgers? I couldn’t really tell you. I never get a chance to read it after frantically searching for the burger combo under the withering gaze of the blond register girl (daughter of the blond cheerleader that ignored me/us in high school).
Free Advice #1: I know it will be painful to scrap this expensive sign, but I think the owners really need to consider doing just that. Also, it could be repositioned behind the cashier rather than directly over my head. Remember the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid.
The decor: It’s a mix of different tones and eras. Like they took the red/white theme from In-N-Out (or Ruby’s Diner), then replaced the red with some peachish reddish orangish. And then they used the stainless steel and white Corrian from In-N-Out, plus added some kitchen cabinet doors and a blue fabric curtain. It’s actually about 90% on, and 10% off…with the 10% off part being really annoying. I wish they had just kept the whole thing more thematically “pure” rather than trying to catch every possible fish.
Free Advice #2: Uhhh…Not much they can really do about it now, aside from redecorating the whole thing. Would be nice if they replaced the bacteria-laden curtain leading to the bathroom with something less…bacteria-laden…like maybe a door or somethin’.
The food: Burger and Fries combo, all the way. Never tried anything else and don’t plan to.
The burger: The burger is not bad. Nice meat. Nice fresh/chunky toppings. So so bun (sorta stale-ish, but I suppose that’s still better than In-N-Out’s disgusting white bread Wonderbun). Better than Burger Lovers’ burger. Not as good as Cornucopia’s big beefy burger, provided you make sure to tell Cornucopia’s chef not to dump a cup of pickle juice on the bun. Size is definitely smallish, so this opening day complaint still seems to be unresolved.
Free Advice #3: What this place badly needs is to split the current $6.29 burger combo into two options: The Cheapo Burger should be the same size as the current one, and priced at $4.99 for the combo with a small serving of fries (Sorry, Westraunt guys, you’ll just have to suck it up on the profit issue). The new Big Ol’ Burger should be 1.5 times as big as the current size, and priced at $7.99 with a large serving of fries. Instead, what they have now is exactly between these two, so pretty much everybody gets pissed off.
The fries: Really a huge weak point of Dickie Jo’s. For some crazy reason, they decided to go with greasy, soft, overly brownish shoestring french fries. I get the point that they are trying to be retro, but I doubt that fries were ever THIS bad even in the 1950′s. I eat them of course, but feel quite disgusted with myself about 2 minutes later.
Free Advice #4: Rethink these fries and come up with something that is retro-ish but not a disgusting pile of wet potato worms.
PR: One of the owners of Dickie Jo’s has been quoted many times in the local press responding to the pricing issue. His latest response to complaints that the burgers are too pricey for their size was “That’s what I have to charge. It’s a very, very thorough pricing model.”
Free Advice #5: Sounding like an accountant, or worse, an evil pointy-haired boss, is exactly what you should not do when you are talking about your home-y, old-fashioned burger joint. Instead, you should say something like, “We are getting our hormone-free, organic hippie beef from local farms, and their prices are definitely a bit higher than the evil conglomerates’ mystery meat. We feel it is worth paying a little extra to get the best quality and also support these local hippie beef farmers. We are hoping that as we grow our business, they can lower their costs from the additional volume, and of course, we will pass along those savings to our loyal customers.” Problem not only solved, but turned around to work in your favor…Boo-yah!
Customer Service: A generic blond-haired college girl takes your order at the register, and then a generic college-kid delivers your meal to your table. The generic college-kid then inexplicably asks you if you want fresh pepper on your fries.
Free Advice #6: Ditch the blond-haired college girl and get a 50 year-old lady named Mabel to (wo)man the cash register. Ideally she should have a pair of those “cat lady” glasses perched on her nose. She should be brusque but friendly, rude but funny. Pay her enough so that she stays at the job forever and memorizes regular customers’ names and favorite orders.
Free Advice #7: Stop asking if people want pepper on their fries. You’re not fooling anyone into thinking this is a French bistro.
Summary: 3 stars for now. 4 stars once all of my Free Advice is implemented in full. I’m waiting…
Update Dec 28, 2010: OK, so I tried the original Dickie Jo’s three times, and finally decided it was just “off” enough to not ever go back. But, of course, I saw their new outlet over by Valley River Mall while post-holiday shopping, so I caved in. The good news is that nearly all of the problems from the original location have been fixed. The decor in the new place is much better and more consistent. The waiting/ordering line is reasonable. The menu is displayed above the counter AND on the register where you can see it while ordering. The fries are not greasy worms anymore. The beef has been beefed up to a more reasonable size. Mabel is still not the cashier, but the youngish staff seems way better organized (although the cash register was not working so we all had to wait 20 minutes to order…Free advice #8: Hey, westboss, put a clipboard with paper order forms under the high-tech register for emergencies like this.
One new addition is their new little backstory about mom and dad (Dickie and Jo) that they feature in posters and other signage. It seems that they actually ate at a hamburger place on their first date. “True story” they exclaim on the signage. Uhh…what’s so hard to believe about that? Did they also order Cokes? OMG! Free advice #9: No backstory is better than one that rings false and/or does not resonate with customers.
Lingering problem: they still ask you if you want pepper on your fries. Still weird and sorta dumb. See Free Advice #7 above.
Summary 2: Anyhoo, much improved overall, so I am raising the rating to 4.5 stars.
Update Jan 19, 2011: They removed the “true story” hollow exclamation from the backstory poster. Cool. I type things here, and they happen over there. It’s like they’re listening to me or somethin’. Where should I send my invoice?