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About Whitt's Barbecue

Bill Dean had no idea how big his idea would grow when he opened the first Nashville area location of Whitt's Barbecue on March 1, 1978. To fulfill a burning desire to own his own business, he bought into the Whitt's Barbecue franchise from his home town of Athens, Alabama. He had been enjoying it for years every time he went home. He knew how successful the Whitt's had been. He know how good the product was and how people came from miles around to get in line on holidays like the Fourth of July. These people wanted to insure that they got a portion of the thousands of pounds available before it sold out. Bill Dean knew all of these things and believed he could make Whitt's successful in the Nashville market as well. Bill spent several weeks training with the Whitt's in Athens. Then, with his wife and three teenage daughters, he opened on a cold March day on a section of Antioch Pike that had not seen much development at the time. His wife, Peggy, was a public school math teacher by day and a restaurant worker by night and week-end. One or more of the daughters was always there when not in school. In the beginning, Whitt's was open on Sundays. In those early years, even after more employees were hired, Sunday remained "family day". Only Mom, Dad, and "the girls" worked. Several years later the decision was made to close on Sundays to allow for a day of rest and family time for all employees. By 1985, two of the daughters were married and their husbands had joined the business. That was also the year that a commissary was built to cook and process all the meat. Prior to this, cooking was done at the four individual stores. The commissary would insure consistency and product quality by controlling the cooking process. All barbecue, even to this day, is smoked for 24 hours over smoldering hickory coals, and it is all processed by hand. No grinders, choppers, or slicers are ever used. The commissary is also USDA inspected on a daily basis. After building the commissary, the company grew to include a total of eight stores plus an outlet at the Nashville International Airport. In additions to these locations in Nashville, there are 11 sub-franchises in surrounding counties. Throughout all the changes, Whitt's has remained a family run operation. All three daughters are still involved in some capacity. In addition, all three of their husbands are owner/operators of the company. Nowadays, the next generation is starting to work in the business. A couple of the grandchildren work part-time, and any of the twelve can be seen helping at the many caterings each week in the Nashville area.