Four decades of operating restaurants and cafes across the country may have prepared Memphis native Alan Katzen for his most recent venture but a friendly card game is what prompted him to raise the stakes and buy his own barbecue business.
The former vice president of operations for Seattle’s Best Coffee was playing a poker game with six friends when the regional topic of barbecue came up.
“I asked what everyone’s favorite barbecue restaurant was,” he recalled. “With this being Memphis, I expected to get seven different answers.”
He was close.
“I got six different answers,” he said, laughing.
Katzen and soon-to-be business partner Joel Banes, CEO of Banes Capital Management, were the only two players to agree on a spot. They both chose One & Only BBQ.
One & Only BBQ was recently named the Large Business of the Year by the Germantown Chamber of Commerce during a Celebration of Excellence banquet on Jan. 25 at the Great Hall in Germantown.
“We loved the food,” he said.
And while both men found the barbecue exceptional, they agreed that the business had not yet reached its potential.
“We weren’t happy with all of the parts of the business,” said Katzen.
A restaurant veteran of 45 years, Katzen felt the business needed a better approach to customer service.
As luck would have it, the owners of One & Only BBQ on Kirby Parkway were looking for potential buyers.
“Two months later,” Kaizen said, “we bought the assets.”
Within nine months, restaurant sales had “increased dramatically.” So, Katzen and Banes decided to add a second location on Perkins Extended, just north of Southern Ave.
Katzen admitted that the first year in the renovated CK’s Coffee Shop was a “battle.” However, catering and carry-out began to boom at the now popular location near Oak Court Mall and Audubon Park. This location also offers “Memphis’ best” turnip greens, according to Katzen.
This success led to One & Only BBQ’s third and largest endeavor, a 3,000-square-foot restaurant on a one-acre corner lot off of Germantown Parkway and across the street from Agricenter International.
“We built that location from scratch,” Katzen said of the restaurant, which opened last spring.
The new Cordova location features a drive-thru and is now the bell cow for the One & Only BBQ brand, which Katzen hopes to continue growing.
He noted that communities like Collierville, Millington and Southaven are prime spots for future expansion.
Katzen attributes One & Only BBQ’s rapid growth to its inclusive and expansive menu (featuring everything from brisket and pork sandwiches to salads and vegan burgers), quality products and “Southern hospitality.”
“No one backs their product like we do,” said the East High School and University of Tennessee graduate, emphasizing that all three restaurants use fresh, bone-in pork shoulders that are never frozen.
Katzen also said the business’ 165 employees are responsible for creating a consistently good product.
“When you hire great people,” he noted, “you have an obligation to treat them well, pay them well and give them other opportunities.”
The Cordova restaurant was also recently named the Large Business of the Year by the Germantown Chamber of Commerce during a Celebration of Excellence banquet on Jan. 25 at the Great Hall in Germantown.
Elaine Hare, chief executive officer of Susan G. Komen of Memphis-Mid-South, Mississippi, presented the award and noted that One & Only BBQ “serves more than just great meals, they are also deeply invested in the Memphis community and believe in giving back in any way possible.”
“They provide money, food or services to the Memphis Humane Society, the Special Olympics, the Cervical Cancer Coalition and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, to name a few,” she said.
For more information, call 901.275.8450 or go to OneAndOnlyBBQ.Com.