The year was 2013. It was August in Texas. We landed in Austin early with six hours before we had to meet with a potential client. It was noon. Which, for us, also means Meat-O-Clock! We opened Google Maps and simply searched "Austin BBQ Brisket". We blindly selected the first place that had 4 or more stars, launched the navigation and followed the directions of our female sounding digital guide to what we hoped would be smoky BBQ heaven.
From the airport to a locale near downtown, next to an old neighborhood that is now probably taken over by Austin hipsters, we parked behind what appeared to be homemade trailers of sorts. As we walked by them the picture became more clear. They were literally a fleet of BBQ smoking trailers made from unidentifiable chassis and corrugated roofing panels on all five sides. Next to each, were piles of wood. It was almost too beautiful of a scene. Needless to say, our pace picked up on the way to what appeared to be a well deserved line.
A line it was. At 12:35 pm there was easily over 100 people in a serpentine through railings, down old concrete steps, out onto/down the sidewalk and back next to the upper level of the outdoor dining porch (It's a BBQ joint so it ain't no patio, it's a porch). We took our place in what appeared to be a focused, but civil, crowd of expectant carnivores and began to wait our turn not knowing when we might get through this crude theme park style line to be able to experience the BBQ roller coaster.
Less than a minute after we cued up in the line a robust bearded man with smoke on his cheeks, and sauce on his apron, appeared directly above us on the porch. The man spoke with 100% attention of the crowd. "Here at Franklin (Yes, it is the Franklin Barbecue that was featured in American Express commercials and the movie Chef.), we smoke this meat out back for 18 hours. That means when it's gone, it's gone. We can't make anymore for today." He then looked down upon our BrandTrip Partners founder Tim and began to hand him a piece of BBQ stained butcher paper with something written on it. He continued, "This man is the Last Man Standin'. That means he is guaranteed anything he wants. Ribs, sausage, brisket, chicken...anything we smoke he can get it. Anyone behind him might get somehtin', or might get nothin'. But, the Last Man Standin' can get it all. However, sir, it's about an hour and a half from where you are standin' right now before you get any meat."
Sure enough, the butcher paper said "Last Man Standin'" hand written with a Sharpie. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that Franklin Barbecue is an equal opportunity meat provider as the other side had "Last Woman Standin'" inscribed on it. And...sure enough it was an hour and a half to the minute that it took for that line to get the Last Man Standin' in the "On Deck" position. Tim was greeted with cheers from the staff and congratulatory words from the management. On top of that, he was informed that his entire meal was gratis and he could have anything he wanted. Seeing that it was now 2:00 pm and there had been no nourishment since breakfast, he ordered "Some of each please, and a pint of that local pecan porter beer." A large plastic tray with mountain of meat, some white bread, potato salad and a fine dark malted beverage was fastidiously bestowed in front of him.
Was it good? Let's just say it was one of those days where you loved your job.
ROI for Franklin's free tray of meat for the Last Man Standin' and a greasy butcher paper sign = Countless times we have told this story, blog posts read by thousands and a warm feeling for everything Franklin. Do you have a Last Man Standin' moment you can create for your brand?