Lexington BBQ family wins big on CNBC’s ‘The Profit’
BY KRISTINA ROSEN
Imagine interviewing for your dream job on national television. Better yet, imagine interviewing for your dream job on national television not knowing the entire process was a job interview.
That’s what happened to Chandler Lyles of Lyles BBQ who appeared on The Profit in February 2019. The Profit is a tv series hosted by the CEO of Camping World, Marcus Lemonis, who travels the country rehabbing small businesses (a bit like the ‘Bar Rescue’ concept.)
Lyles BBQ is a local family-owned and operated barbecue restaurant with two locations on Clays Mill Road and in the mall food court. Greg and Jennifer (Momma) Lyles co-own the company with their son Chandler.
Since opening in 2013, Lyles BBQ applied every season to be on The Profit.
Among the 40,000 applications The Profit sees every year, Lemonis had never encountered a situation like this before. While the restaurant was applying to be on the show, Chandler was also applying to jobs at ML Food Group, which is owned by Lemonis. If Chandler was the CEO of a local business asking for help, Lemonis was curious as to why Chandler was applying to jobs elsewhere that would require him to leave his business behind.
“You go through life knowing where you want to go, but you’re not sure how you’ll get there,” says Chandler. “I think every single day you just do what seems right in pursuit of that goal.”
The family anticipated being on the show would result in a huge investment, new fans and patrons, and hundreds of Lyles BBQ spot would roll out across the country.
Those plans took a twist when the episode chronicles a process that [spoiler alert!] turned out to be a job interview for Chandler.
No one at Lyles BBQ knew the episode was a test to see what Chandler was capable of. Greg and Jennifer didn’t even know Chandler had applied to other jobs. Lemonis had two decisions to make with this episode: decide if Lyles BBQ is worthy of investment, and if Chandler was worth a job offer.
“There is nothing scripted about the show. What you see is what you get,” says Greg. “Marcus shows up and it’s game on. He evokes emotions and asks probing questions to see if he legitimately wants to invest in your business.”
The mall location was the focus problem of the episode (in Fayette Mall).
Lemonis initially invested money into this location and gave the family two weeks to transform it. This turned out to be a project management challenge for Chander to see how he fixes a broken concept.
“Marcus doesn’t come in and solve your problems. You don’t magically become rich overnight. When he comes in the work just begins,” says Greg.
Lemonis’s final deal with Lyles BBQ was to invest $100,000 in the mall location, and developing Momma Lyles products, including her special sauces and merchandise. He did not touch the original location, nor does he have a role at the restaurant.
With their new online marketplace of sauces and merchandise, the local BBQ brand extends past Lexington now. Greg and Jennifer have a goal of opening four to five more locations in Lexington, before expanding elsewhere.
“It’s been a great experience. The restaurant is doing well, the mall is doing okay. We are looking to grow,” says Greg. “But the coolest thing about the whole show is when Marcus put that job offer for Chandler on the table.”
Chandler started his new job with ML Food Group after the episode aired in February.
“So far, this job has felt like the right thing. It’s like having the best of both worlds. Working for a bunch of small businesses and taking what I learned with helping my family on the show and applying these lessons to other businesses.”
Lyles BBQ would have never succeeded from the beginning if it wasn’t a family effort. Greg brings the human resource perspective, Jennifer works her magic in the back of house, and Chandler manages the business aspect. Even with his new job, Chandler is still the marketing mastermind behind Lyles BBQ.
“In order for a brand to stand out and for people to connect with your brand, you have to be really good at telling your story.”
For the Lyles family, this means learning to share their story through videos on YouTube and Facebook. Chandler has almost 700 YouTube subscribers and more than 50 videos posted to his channel including recipes and vlogs. Momma Lyles also has her own channel where she creates weekly cooking and recipe videos.
“The best way for us to to learn how to tell our own story is through these videos. You meet our family and get to know us so when you come to the restaurant you feel like you’re at our house. That’s the vibe we want to create at Lyles BBQ. That you’re coming in to hang out with us. You’re an invited guest versus a first time stranger. It’s a better relationship.”
Go to www.lylesbbqcompany.com and get a free pulled pork sandwich when you sign up for their email list.
This article also appears on page 5 of the April 2019 print edition of Ace Weekly.
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