Franklin Barbecue has no shortage of customers. More than seven years after it first opened, the Austin barbecue spot still draws hours-long lines and consistently sells out of the 106 briskets available daily. But, despite the high demand, proprietor Aaron Franklin has no plans to expand. On a recent episode of the Eater Upsell, he sat down with hosts Helen Rosner and Greg Morabito to discuss why there will only ever be one Franklin Barbecue.
“There aren’t enough cows,” Franklin says. It takes 53 cows per day to keep up with current operations, and these are a special kind of cow. “I even struggle now to get enough [brisket],” he adds. The market is so small that when fast-food chain Arby’s hopped on the brisket trend, it drove up the cost of brisket for Franklin by $2. “We don't use commodity brisket at all,” he explains. “But once the commodity supply runs out, then people start trying to upgrade, and that’s where we got into trouble.”
Setting aside the impossibility of procuring the brisket required to support another location, Franklin Barbecue could never exist outside of Austin, according to Franklin. “It is a magical city, and I don’t think Franklin Barbecue would really work anywhere else. I think it’s our community that kind of makes that place,” he says, adding that even the food he cooks at a pop-up events elsewhere isn’t actually Franklin Barbecue.
But really, Franklin feels no need to put a Franklin Barbecue anywhere other than 900 E 11th Street, Austin, Texas. “Every brisket sees about 44 hours of labor before it gets to lunch. That doesn’t even include service time. We cook 24, or 23 hours a day. It’s just not going to happen for a barbecue joint,” he says. “But maybe one day we’ll open up a little sandwich place. Maybe one day we’ll open up something else. But really, I think just opening up restaurants just to open up restaurants, that just sounds horrible.”
The pitmaster is, however, currently growing his business. These days, he’s not in the kitchen as much as he focuses on launching Franklin Barbecue Pits, Franklin Barbecue’s own line of barbecue smokers. These smaller versions of Franklin Barbecue’s own barbecue pits (smaller at six feet and more than 500 pounds) will be available for purchase in 2018. It should come as no surprise that there’s already a line — in the form of a waitlist 2,600 people long.
Hear the complete interview with Aaron Franklin as he discusses striving for barbecue perfection, managing the Franklin Barbecue line, and diagnosing his fans’ brisket problems. Subscribe to the Eater Upsell on iTunes, or listen on Soundcloud. You can also get the entire archive of episodes right here on Eater.