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VOL. 132 | NO. 98 | Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Corky’s Targets Millennials With Store Upgrades, UberEATS

By Andy Meek

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Corky’s BBQ is chasing a new generation of customers it wants to turn into barbecue fans.

Corky’s has renovated its flagship restaurant at 5259 Poplar Ave., part of a series of remodels and updates it’s undertaking at several area locations.

(Daily News/Houston Cofield)

To do that, the company is making what co-owner Barry Pelts estimates is a six-figure investment in renovations for its Memphis-area eateries. That update is already basically finished at the flagship Corky’s restaurant at 5259 Poplar Ave., which features an open floor plan, three widescreen TVs, brighter interior lighting, new booths and more.

Similar changes are in the works for the company’s Cordova, Collierville and Olive Branch restaurants.

In a related move, the company in recent weeks was also one of the first Memphis restaurants to sign up to participate in UberEATS, the digital meal delivery service offered by the popular ride-sharing service Uber.

“Our overriding thoughts behind this were, we want to bring in the young millennials and the next generation of people to be loyal Corky’s customers,” said Pelts, whose father Don started Corky’s three decades ago. “If you don’t keep up with the times, you’ll stagnate.”

At 5259 Poplar, Corky’s took down partitions in the main dining room, in addition to installing new interior lights to make the classic Memphis memorabilia and artwork displayed inside stand out. Corky’s signature dishes and sides will also be served on tin trays and butcher paper for a genuine Memphis BBQ experience.

For the Corky’s in Cordova, the company is building out a new full-service bar. There’s a younger demographic in Cordova, Pelts said, and those customers have been asking for liquor, not just beer. The company is also working to make the feel of the restaurant there a little more “inviting.”

In Collierville, meanwhile, Corky’s plans to pursue renovations along the lines of those it pursued at the flagship location. Those will happen in the first quarter of 2018. And for the Corky’s in Olive Branch, the company took the outside patio there and enclosed it to turn it into a private party room.

The Poplar renovations took about three months, and Pelt’s rough estimate is the company has spent about $100,000 there. Including updates and remodels to the Cordova, Collierville and Olive Branch locations, he figures the company will have spent more than $300,000 by the time it’s all finished.

“What we decided about eight months ago – our Poplar restaurant is 35 years old,” he said. “Our Cordova restaurant is many years old. Our Collierville restaurant is getting to be many years old. Our Olive Branch location’s only 4 years old. So we started with Poplar Avenue, and what we’re doing is we’re trying to keep the same feel of a BBQ juke joint but bring it up to where it’s going to be inviting to not only our regular customers but also millennials. Because we want to be prepared for the next generation.”

That’s also why Corky’s has signed up to participate with UberEATS.

Customers can use the UberEATS platform to effectively order from the entire Corky’s menu – the only thing not available to-go are onion rings.

Users pay for the food with the credit card they have on file with their Uber profile. The platform works the same way customers hail an Uber ride. To use it, however, they’ll need to download a separate app – the UberEATS smartphone app, which is distinct from the main Uber app.

An Uber representative didn’t respond for comment about the service’s arrival in Memphis about a month ago. But according to the company, the service is available 24 hours a day.

“As long as the restaurant is shown as open and serving on the UberEATS app during that time, then you’ll be able to place your order,” the company says. “UberEATS is currently available throughout most of the Memphis area. Specific neighborhoods in our coverage zone include Downtown, Midtown and Germantown.”

Customers pay a booking fee on every delivery that varies to cover operational costs, according to the company. In addition to the mobile device apps, customers can also order UberEATS deliveries from Memphis restaurants at ubereats.com/memphis/, using their computer.

“My son lives out in San Diego, and he uses it,” Pelts said. “My mom is 72. I downloaded it on her phone, and I think she’s going to start using it. People are always going to eat out, but delivery – that’s where all the growth is in the restaurant business. The growth is not happening so much in the dine-in.

“The response has been tremendous. … We’re seeing a lot of sales, for example, from people who want to stay in on like a rainy Sunday afternoon. I would venture to say – it’s a sheer guess – but I’d say 80 percent of our orders we weren’t going to get but for UberEATS.”

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