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Restaurant’s special combo — Ph.D. plus BBQ

Thomas Driver is the owner of a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise restaurant that will open in early July in Port Orchard, and he plans to eventually open four more in Kitsap County.There’s not a long list of barbecue restaurants on the Kitsap Peninsula, but that’s fixin’ to change.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit will start serving ribs, brisket and other smoked fare the first week of July in Port Orchard, and it’s the first of five Dickey’s locations that franchisee Thomas Driver plans to open.

 

Driver may seem an unlikely entrepreneur in the restaurant business. He retired in 2010 after a 27-year Navy career as a hospital administrator that included an assignment to Naval Hospital Bremerton, and his last assignment was as academic dean for the Navy’s Direct Commission Officers training program in Newport, R.I.

He now owns Animal Intelligence Software, a company that provides electronic records systems for the veterinary field. He also has a Ph.D. in ministry and a law degree, in addition to his business degree.

“My background is diverse,” said Driver, who lives in Port Orchard and formed TLD Enterprises, Inc. as the entity that will operate the restaurants.

Like many others whose Navy careers brought them to Kitsap, he returned here to live after his retirement from the service.

“To me this was home, and if I was going to do anything entrepreneurial, it was going to be opening a restaurant chain,” Driver said.

His franchise agreement with Dallas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit gives him the entire Kitsap Peninsula as his territory to put in five restaurants. Driver said that after the first one opens in Port Orchard, his company plans to open additional locations roughly a year apart in Bremerton, Poulsbo, Silverdale and Gig Harbor.

The new Dickey’s occupies the former Pizza Factory site on Mile Hill Drive by the Towne Square retail center. 

“The community is screaming for diversity in restaurants,” Driver said. “I love barbecue. I miss the old Tony Roma’s that was in Silverdale; I used to take my staff to eat there.”

Besides offering tasty food, his idea of a good restaurant is a comfortable gathering place for families or other groups to share a meal.

“I love to be in a restaurant that has a feel of community,” Driver said. “I’ve always been intrigued to see how many people actually gather for fellowship or meetings around a table of food.”

Diners are served cafeteria-style at Dickey’s, which offers a variety of meats that are hickory-smoked on site. The menu includes sandwiches and combo plates, as well as meat-topped baked potatoes and salads. Side dishes and desserts include traditional Southern offerings such as barbecue beans, fried okra and pecan pie.

“You’ll see the smoker, and see the meat cut right in front of you,” Driver said.

There’s also complimentary ice cream and a kids-eat-free promotion on Sundays.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, a family-owned company since 1941 with more than 400 locations across the U.S., was named one of the Top 5 fastest-growing chains in 2012 by the industry publication Nation’s Restaurant News. 

 

 
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