The beleaguered Fort Worth franchise has found its savior in Robert Hubbard.
In 2013, the Red, Hot, and Blue franchise of Fort Worth had fallen on hard times. An absentee owner had left the three locations adrift, and poor service combined with lackluster food to sound the death knell for this longstanding barbecue and music joint. Then, out of the blue, a red hot savior arrived in the figure of Robert Hubbard.
A three decade veteran of the barbecue business, Robert has, as of 2016, obtained all three Red, Hot, and Blue locations. Big changes are in the works, and the restaurant has shaken off the dust to emerge as one of the most exciting barbecue options in Fort Worth. We talked to Robert about the changes he made, and what’s new for the future.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the restaurant business.
Robert: I started in the restaurant business about 30 years ago. I was 14 years old, living on the westside of Fort Worth, a freshman at Western Hills high school. I went into Spring Creek Barbecue out on Las Vegas Trail and lied about my age. I told them I was 15, got a job there, and worked as a busboy. I stayed with Spring Creek all the way through high school, then went through their management program when I graduated. I was with them until 2014.
What attracted you to Red, Hot, and Blue, and what was its situation when you got involved?
Robert: I own all three locations today. In 2014, I was living in South Carolina working for Spring Creek, but wanted to come back to Texas. Coming home, Spring Creek didn’t have a spot for me, so it was time for me to do my own deal. I started looking for something to buy and came across the Red, Hot, and Blue for sale in Flower Mound. I purchased it in 2014, then the other two locations this past summer in 2016.
WERE THE RESTAURANTS doing well when you acquired it, or has it done better since you took over?
Robert: They were not doing well at all, quite honestly. Flower Mound was struggling then and is doing much better today. The ones in Fort Worth and North Richardson Hills were both struggling. They were not run well, and though we’re certainly better today, we still have a long ways to go. We’re doing better on a daily basis.
What were some of the challenges you faced, and what did you do to succeed?
Robert: Just like any time you take over a business, staffing was an issue. We had to go in and weed out the staff, and had to turn over the management team. For the Fort Worth location, we’re in the midst today of a quick remodel, with new floors, paintwork, and other changes that we’re making. We’ve made a lot of improvements with the food as well. I’ve been in barbecue for 30 years, and the food wasn’t much to write home about.
What might surprise people who MAY HAVE visited one of the locations in the past?
Robert: We hope they will experience a higher level of service with the new staff. We’re always trying to improve in that area. In Fort Worth you’ll notice some differences to the way the restaurant looks. We’re bringing everything into the 21st century. The place had been there for 15 years, and had never benefited from an update.
For people who come for the first time, what impression do you want them to leave with?
Robert: As with any restaurant, you want your customers to acknowledge that the food is good. That’s first and foremost for us. With the barbecue especially, we’ve worked really, really hard getting the brisket right. Being in barbecue professionally for as long as I have, I know that you’ve got to get the brisket just right.
I’ll be honest with you, when I got there the brisket was in need of help. We had to put a lot of effort into correcting it, and making it something that will compete and stand out in the market. If there’s one thing in barbecue you do well, it’s got to be that. People should hopefully walk away seeing the work we’ve done. We still have a long ways to go, but we’re making lots of improvements. Now there’s an owner that’s really involved and here to stay, and it will make a difference.