|Customers wait in line at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
I don't know if Ross Perot likes barbecue. He's Texan, so probably. But it doesn't really matter.
He had the perfect term for what's happening now in some parts of the Texas barbecue world.
Whenever Ross saw sideshows obscure real issues, whenever he saw posturing and anemic attempts at intimidation, he called it "gorilla dust."
For him, cutting through b.s. was the only way to do business. That approach helped make him a business legend.
During the past week or so, as I've thought about the reaction to Mike Leggett's recent column in the Austin American-Statesman, I keep thinking of Ross' term, gorilla dust.
Leggett, if you recall, is the outdoors columnist who wrote about his unpleasant experience at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor when he was in line at the same time a tour group from Texas Monthly arrived.
In Leggett's opinion, the tour group caused him to have to wait an inordinate amount of time to be served. That's the main issue, sideshows aside.
"Call me an old goat," Leggett wrote at the top of his column. "Call me a grouch and an ungrateful snake. Call me just plain shortsighted because I haven’t recognized the smoked meat worship that’s swept over our state."
Instead, many attacked Leggett's accuracy and called him a "whiner" for complaining about long waits.
Drew Thornley, who publishes the popular Man Up Texas BBQ blog and runs tours of his own, reposted on his blog comments from others that called Leggett "petty," "weirdly jealous," and a "grumpy old man."
Drew is an acquaintance. I've helped judge one his barbecue sauce contests. But I think those attacking Leggett are wrong here.
(NOTE: Originally, this item attributed the comments above directly to Thornley. He contacted us to say he was just reposting comments from others and said he has not taken an editorial position on the situation.)
Wayne Mueller, owner of Louie Mueller's, the joint in question, told Texas Monthly barbecue editor and tour guide Daniel Vaughn that Leggett "sounded like a guy who wanted preferential treatment."
Whatever happened to the saying -- a really successful business practice -- that the customer is always right?
Leggett didn't want preferential treatment. He wanted equal treatment, even if he didn't know the first name of the joint's owner.
The problem is, of course, that in this era of booming Texas barbecue popularity, some barbecue eaters are more equal than others. We have special parties and VIP tickets for events. We have custom $150-a-person tours and barbecue weekends at "experiential" resorts.
Fine, but most of us just want to have some good brisket and ribs at lunch. If joints are going to offer these specials, they need to make sure that their normal customers don't suffer because of it. Memo to Wayne Mueller: Next time, hire more help to serve the people on Texas Monthly's bus.
Despite the attacks, Leggett does have many supporters. So far, his column has received more than 900 Twitter referrals and nearly 800 from Facebook. That dwarfs the total number of Facebook likes on Texas Monthly's new barbecue Web site.
In an email exchange, Leggett said he wasn't sure if that's a single-story social media record for him. "When I do something about big snakes or the state trying to sell off a park or something we get similar responses," he wrote.
So, even Texas barbecue has a tough time competing with big snakes. Interesting. Can't wait until a Texas publication bets its future with a "moon shot" on big snakes.
And a memo to the American-Statesman: When one of your writers hits a home run with a column, please don't bury it again behind your pay wall. After all, this is Texas barbecue we're talking about.
|Customers enjoy an early lunch at Louie Mueller Barbecue. (Photo ©Daniel Goncalves/Fotobia.com)|