Ohio State Alum D’Andre Martin is the Co-owner of The Pit BBQ Grille located in Columbus, Ohio, in the Northern Lights Shopping Center. Founded by four college friends, the young entrepreneurs consider The Pit BBQ Grille a community friend serving tasty food. D’Andre’s other entrepreneurial ventures include real estate, where he’s a realtor at Signature Real Estate. Additionally, he’s the Co-owner of Beyond Barriers, a national trucking company, the Co-owner of Leafy Products, a bamboo toilet paper company, and the Owner of Just Chicken, a new concept restaurant set to launch in 2023.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- D’Andre Martin talks about the origin of The Pit BBQ Grille
- Why is The Pit BBQ Grille different from other barbecue joints?
- The restaurant’s early days and how the business overcame hardships
- D’Andre’s other business ventures
- The similarities between the restaurant industry and D’Andre’s other businesses
- How did the pandemic impact the restaurant’s operations?
In this episode…
Usually, popular destinations like Kansas City, Memphis, and all of Texas come to mind when one thinks of barbecue. Kansas City is famous for its smoke-style meats, Memphis is famous for its slow-cooked barbecue and dry and wet rubs, and Texas is famous for its brisket. But Cleveland is another destination popular for its barbecue, particularly its sauces.
When Columbus resident D’Andre Martin realized a void in the city’s barbecue food scene, it led to a discussion with three of his college friends. Eventually, that conversation evolved into a restaurant concept, and The Pit BBQ Grille was born. Six years and three locations later, D’Andre and his partners still have work to do. So, what’s next for The Pit BBQ Grille, and what makes it a standout barbecue joint?
In this episode of the SpotOn Series, host Chad Franzen of Rise25 speaks with D’Andre Martin, Co-owner of The Pit BBQ Grille, about the restaurant’s unique take on Cleveland-style barbecue. D’Andre talks about the hardships the restaurant overcame in its early days, his other business ventures and their similarities to the restaurant industry, and what the future holds for The Pit BBQ Grille.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- D’Andre Martin on LinkedIn
- The Pit BBQ Grille
- Signature Real Estate
- Leafy Products
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
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Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show powered by Rise25 Media. We feature top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world
Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here Co-host for the show where we feature top restaurant tours, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn series. SpotOn has the best-in-class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant, where they combine marketing software and payments all in one. They’ve served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and Subway to small mom-and-pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spoton.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships through done- for- you podcasts. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients referrals and thought leaders in your space. There’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to Rise25.com or email us at Support@Rise25Media.com. D’Andre Martin is a realtor and co-owner of The Pit BBQ Grille located in the northern light shopping center in Columbus, Ohio. His desire is to provide the best service and experience to everyone he encounters. D’Andre, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
D’Andre Martin 1:19
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Chad Franzen 1:21
Hey, tell me about The Pit BBQ Grill and what a customer can expect when going there.
D’Andre Martin 1:26
So The Pit BBQ Grill was started by me and three of my partners, which were friends. I’ve been friends for 15 plus years. Three of us are from Cleveland, our fourth partners from Florida. So after school at Ohio State, we all kind of came together and we wanted to do something together. And in 2016, we opened up our first location. And from there, we just been growing. So we have three locations right now. One we had to close down due to donor pandemic, but we’re getting ready to open up to more. So it’s kind of up and down for us. But we’re still growing. So we’ll have a new one here at the East Market Trolley Barn. Another one in New Albany. And right now currently we have our Parsons locations, our Clintonville location and our Dublin location.
Chad Franzen 2:27
Okay, great. How did the idea for this particular kind of restaurant come about for you guys?
D’Andre Martin 2:33
Well, in Cleveland, you know, it’s barbecue everywhere. So in 2015 It really wasn’t that big of a presence of barbecue here in Columbus, it was just mainly City Barbecue. So I brought it to the guy and I said, Man, I want to bring a clean and stop barbecue. But we got it done. So that’s what’s very unique about our menu is that everything on our menu is from our family members.
Chad Franzen 3:00
Great. Did you have? Did you have previous restaurant experience?
D’Andre Martin 3:05
No. Obviously, growing up in a household all of us have grown up in the household helping our parents cook our grandparents cook for holidays, stuff like that was just mainly where our experience came from. I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and love food. And that’s one thing we all had in common. We all love food. We all love barbecue. We all came from kind of the same but different backgrounds with different dishes and everything like that. So my family this is my grandmother’s macaroni and cheese. So every time was at my grandma’s house on the holidays. That was my pick – my plate was piled with mac and cheese. So I knew that her mac and cheese was gonna get picked out everybody else’s but we still went through the process. But yeah, so really, why no experience, just know that we love some and know that we want to do something together. So we feel like we’re pretty smart guys. And we put our heads together. And it was born.
Chad Franzen 4:12
So sure, what makes that mac and cheese unique.
D’Andre Martin 4:15
Some very expensive cheeses. And it – I’ll give you one of them. Smoked gouda was very, very expensive cheese – not a regular thing and it goes into mac and cheese. And then it’s about seven cheeses. And then we make everything from scratch so we shred our cheeses up daily every day. It just it’s just one of a kind. So that’s definitely our top-selling side dish in our restaurant.
Chad Franzen 4:47
When you say Cleveland-style barbecue. How’s that different from maybe like Kansas City?
D’Andre Martin 4:53
Oh, I will say we put sauce on everything. And that’s how that’s how we were raised. We only have one sauce. So is all of our barbecue restaurants in Cleveland, this one was, and that one barbecue sauce is always like really, really, really good. So that’s why we say cleaning style. And then we you know, we do charcoal for everything, our ribs, our rib tips, everything off the charcoal grill, I really didn’t know much about smoking until I moved out here. So in Cleveland, we have all of our barbecue restaurants have charcoal grills outside, and you just see the smoke and flames and everything and the smell in the neighborhoods. So that’s where we kind of used to so not know anything about Kansas City or Texas style. That’s I would say Cleveland style. But we do have a little bit of Texas style in it too. Because we have our own rub. Our brisket is a Texas-style brisket. One of my guys that I follow online, Franklin, he owns a barbecue place in Texas, it’s really big. And I’ve been following him for a year. So I kind of learned a lot from him as well, on the brisket side of things.
Chad Franzen 6:15
Man, I’m getting hungry. It’s like 8 a.m. where I am. What were the, you know, after you open your first location, what were the early days like there after you guys opened your first location, you know, as you’re as you’re just getting started over the early days, like as you were just getting going?
D’Andre Martin 6:39
It was tough. It was tough. So just to learn a process on operations. Consistency, being as this is our first location, and you know, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. So our first day the crowd was out the door wrapped around the corner. And we were trying to prep things as they were ordered. And we found out really fast that that is not how you need to do things, you got to kind of be a lot more prepared. And that also just we had an employee doing every little thing. So we had like a personal each piece of equipment. A person by three people in a friend, it was a big learning experience on on payroll, who is wasted a lot of money on payroll or first maybe in our first year actually. So that was a huge learning experience. But after that first year, and we’ve actually kind of got down our operations and kind of figured some things out. Everything started going a little bit better, but definitely payroll and just being prepared for the customers.
Chad Franzen 8:02
You know I asked that question to a lot of people and they say that they just had no customers and they had to go like give out free food to Chick-fil-A people waiting in the Chick-fil-A drive thru or something. You had a line out the door — how did you guys get the word out? What brought everybody in so quickly?
D’Andre Martin 8:18
Well, two of my partner’s playing for Ohio State. So we kind of had like a big following behind this. We had a lot of anticipation for it, all of our families. You know, it’s four of us. So it’s four different families that traveled up from out of town. So it was a big anticipation first, okay. So, thankfully, you know, like I said, the Buckeye thing so this is a Buckeye state. So they love the Buckeyes here. So that was like a huge part of our initial customers. And from near we kind of just grew organically by word of mouth, things like that. We really didn’t do a lot of marketing. No, it was great.
Chad Franzen 9:08
How long before you realized you were ready to open more than one location?
D’Andre Martin 9:15
Um, it took maybe two years because that’s our first year we got a food truck. So got a food truck and then we were able to kind of expand our brand to different areas. And then once we’ve seen the response for the food truck, we said you know it’s time to to get to another location and also our first location. I say we were all rookies at this and it really wasn’t an ideal location. Because it wasn’t, it wasn’t really convenient for people to come so it wasn’t near a freeway. It was a smack dab in the center of the neighborhood. So that was nothing that we learned. It’s all about location. And the convenience people to get to you. People might not come to their convenience to come by your foods. That was a big lesson for us. Well, in neighborhood, we were in Kroger’s left. And that was kind of like a big, big part of customers shopping center, we were in progress I left. So kind of loose was kind of tough in our first location. So we knew that we had a great product, great quality product, we knew we had great operations. And we knew we needed to get to another area where it was a little bit more simple for people to get to us and enjoy food.
Chad Franzen 10:54
Is it important to be around other restaurants even though they’re competition?
D’Andre Martin 10:59
At first? I didn’t think so. But now I do. Yes. Because when people are in the area, they’re going to eventually come try you out if they haven’t tried to before. So it’s definitely a big huge help than being on an island by yourself.
Chad Franzen 11:20
Do you still — do you work at the pit day to day?
D’Andre Martin 11:23
Yeah, so I run the day-to-day operations of all of our locations. So I’m still 90% hands-on, I go to the store, get all of our products from our black domain distributor store in the city. And then I distribute it to all of our locations. So we have basically, our main location is Clintonville. That’s where we do all of our prepping. So we prep all of our sites for that one location. So after that, after everything is prepped, I’ve transferred all the sides to each location and meats and everything.
Chad Franzen 12:05
So not only do you do that, but I mentioned in your intro, that you’re also a realtor. Tell me about that. Maybe some of the things that you have an ownership stake in.
D’Andre Martin 12:16
Yeah, so I’m really so I’ve been an underwriter for 10 years now. That’s going great. I do it as a part time thing. So that’s actually helped me along the way, with our investment because initially we all invested into the restaurant business. So real estate has been great. Great for me and my family. And the market is crazy right now. So it’s tough right now, but it’s still great, great income for me. I also own a bamboo toilet paper company, the first black-owned bamboo toilet paper company in the Midwest. I’ve owned that for two years now. We’re in heights across the states, and local grocery stores here in Columbus, Ohio. Kind of just throwing that out. It’s kind of like a long, long time thing. I also have a trucking company where we transfer freight from state to state. And now recently, since February, or March, I’m about to open up another restaurant concept here in Columbus as well. So that first location to be opened in about a month.
Chad Franzen 13:46
Can you tell me about that?
D’Andre Martin 13:49
So it’s called Just Chicken. So, chicken tenders fries, french fries. Coleslaw made from scratch. And I have three things for dipping sauces that would make the cops never just saw us just ranch and it just honey mustard. So I’m not sure if you ever had Raising Cane’s before ever heard of Raising Cane’s?
Chad Franzen 14:12
Oh yeah, there’s like a line down the street where I live.
D’Andre Martin 14:16
So it’s very very, very similar to that just with my own recipes, so we take fresh-cut chicken breasts and we cut them up into tenders and we batter ‘em and deep-fry ‘em, fresh-cut our fries. So it’s very similar to Cane’s, just I will say. I think it’s better. Of course, I’m supposed to think that. What are different sauces that we’ve made from scratch is a game changer as well. So that’ll be opening up here in Columbus and East Market in about a month. And then so I have two locations. So it’d be a month for the first location, then that’d be like another 30 days after that, it’d be my second location in New Orleans. So I have two locations already.
Chad Franzen 15:11
Okay. Wow, very nice. What? Is this? Just you doing this on your own? Not with your partners at the pit? Yes. Okay. Hey, I met, you told me about all those things that you’re involved in your trucking company, you’re a realtor? What are some similarities between doing those things outside of the restaurant industry, compared to some of the things you do inside, there’s some commonalities.
D’Andre Martin 15:40
They all deal with customers. I’m really big on providing jobs for people who provide careers for people. So that’s one big thing I love to do is give people jobs and help them, you know, make changes in their lives and stuff like that. So I think that’s one thing that they all have in common is that to provide jobs for people, especially in this economy, and right now, it is very, very important. That’s kind of my mission to help people grow from the kind of where I started, from the smaller position being brought into bigger roles at companies. And they all are things that people need. So people need food. I obviously — freight is huge in our, in our world, here. Our toilet paper, bamboo, toilet paper, biodegradable, actually helps the world, save trees and stuff like that. Real estate, everyone needs a home. So I feel like I have a business and all of the needs in the world. There are things that will never, never go. That was another one — just to be something that people will always need in life.
Chad Franzen 17:08
Yeah. Is there something about the restaurant industry? Obviously, you must enjoy it a little bit. Since you’re opening a new one. And you’re involved in a few locations with The Pit. What is it about the restaurant industry that you particularly like?
D’Andre Martin 17:21
I just I love seeing the joy people faces when they eat food that was created by us. I think that’s a big thing. You can make a product and have people come spend their hard earned money on and joy tell you how much how good it is. That’s very, very satisfying to me. And also just seeing my employees, my team grow from being dishwashers to being loud cooks to being store managers to being general managers. I really love seeing the growth within the company with the people that we have. So it’s been an amazing journey. And the restaurant industry — it’s my passion. I just really enjoy the ups and downs, the Delaware customers helping helping people just grow. We call our restaurant family here, because my place could come and talk to me about anything. Anything I can help them with. Not just in the restaurant, but outside of the restaurant. If I can, I’ll do we like a really big fan. So we don’t we I mean, obviously restaurants have turnover rate. But I have employees that’ve been here from the beginning. And they are the ones who have been here from the beginning. They all own. They run their own stores. Now their managers have their own stores. So I just love to see that grow from where we were six years ago to where we’re at now and see them same faces. Our prep team, they’ve been prepping our sites has been here since since day one. They’re a huge part of my restaurant and keeping the consistency of our sides, since they’re the only ones that make it and just kind of continuing that culture on in the restaurant. Each restaurant and just continue to grow. And kind of looking back after 10 years and just being happy with where we are.
Chad Franzen 19:39
Yeah, that’s awesome. Hey, did you — when you started The Pit, did you have kind of that culture in mind or were you just looking to start a barbecue restaurant?
D’Andre Martin 19:49
No, we had a close friend of mine. We are in our mission statement. We say we wanted to be a French community. I think all of that is a part of opera. Ryan’s in the community that we’re in helping people, no. Just make changes in our lives. People, schools, we support schools, talk kids, that’s always been a big, big part of our mission is the community aspect. And just being a friend. And being a leader, being leaders and being mentors to young kids, and even even people that just didn’t have opportunities to graduate school and stuff like that, to just help them out and let them know that you can do anything you put your mind to. We’re not perfect. I didn’t graduate college, my other three partners did. Well, we all have unique skills that make this business go. And I’m kinda out of the blue, kind of a risk taker. To one that just just goes and does it. We got to think, we got to count and we got to all of us are very different in what we do. And we, we, we all stand on our own lanes. And I think that makes us a perfect team. It helps us help other people grow.
Chad Franzen 21:17
Very nice. Hey, I have one more question for you. But first, how can people find out more information about The Pit BBQ Grille?
D’Andre Martin 21:24
You go to thepitcolumbus.com. On our website, we have other other information on here, we do a whole lot of catering. Catering is really big for us, weddings, graduations parties, our food truck, you can look our food truck experiences as well. But that’s our website. We have other information on all of our locations on thepitcolumbus.com.
Chad Franzen 21:53
Yeah, I’ve been to that website, you get hungry about five seconds into looking at. Hey, if you were to go to The Pit – as a last question for you, if you were to go to The Pit as a customer, what would kind of be your like go-to meal or your item of choice?
D’Andre Martin 22:10
So our signature items are amazing. We have a Pit bowl, which is a brioche bun that we toast we put it at the bottom of the bowl, you pick your meat, beef brisket, pulled pork or pulled chicken. So that goes into the bow. Then it’s topped with our mac and cheese and our pit slaw, and then barbecue sauce drizzled on top of that. So that’s kind of like that’s one of our biggest things, resellers where you can kind of get a little bit of everything in the boat. And then we have our Polish boy which is our signature thing from Cleveland. It’s a beef polish sausage that we get made here locally, topped with fresh cut fries, our pit slaw and barbecue sauce. You can’t go wrong with the brisket. It’s really really good. I think it’s the best brisket. Probably besides to Franklin and in the Texas. Yeah. And definitely mac and cheese. You gotta get the mac and cheese. All right.
Chad Franzen 23:09
It sounds fantastic. Hey, D’Andre. It’s been great talking to you. I really appreciate your time today. Thanks so much.
D’Andre Martin 23:15
No problem. Appreciate you having me on.
Chad Franzen 23:17
So long, everybody.
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