Jambo's Barbecue Shack co-owner Ashton Stauffer is always looking for ways to grow the business. Marketing on Facebook is her newest obsession.
Feeding the social media beast is something many chefs and restaurateurs have a hard time with, but anyone in the restaurant's exploding 61,000-member audience who's ever contacted Jambo's on Facebook knows they're talking to Stauffer. She boasts a 92 percent response rate and typically responds well within an hour.
While social media savvy alone does not make great barbecue, it does have a hand in putting asses in seats. When Stauffer does quick polls in lines that still snake out the door on weekends at Jambo's Little Road location in Arlington, she said most new customers tell her they found out about her place on Facebook.
Now she's turning her menu over to the comment section in what Jambo's is calling its Hot & Nasty Fatty Competition.
Jambo's Hot Mess — chopped brisket, cheese and beans with fries and okra on top — was the original customer-created menu item, born one day last winter when the Rendon location ran out of baked potatoes used in a stuffed-spud item they call The Sadie. It has solidified itself as a customer favorite over the past year, and Stauffer "realized that maybe my customers know more than I do."
A crowd-sourced menu item is the next order of business for the outfit that now boasts three locations: the original in Rendon and two in Arlington. Stauffer issued a call on Facebook for creations originating from already-existing menu items and narrowed the field to seven before starting a video series on the restaurant's Facebook page where voters' responses will decide what's added to the menu.
Stauffer announced the competition on Christmas. The first four finalists were introduced on Dec. 30, and the last three followed in a separate post on Jan. 2. Check out the latest videos, which are straight from Jambo's Facebook page, embedded below to get visuals of the customer-created insanity.
The latest two feature the first two head-to-head matchups between the seven competitors. CJ Patton and his rib split, headlined by sweet potatoes topped with a marshmallow drizzle between two Jambo's ribs, appear to have gotten the better of George Kneebling's Dirty Turkey, a smoked turkey breast stuffed with a chopped brisket, cheddar cheese and cream cheese filling. Without an official tally, Blake Crow's Jamburrito looked to have the edge over Chris Wood's Bottlecap Skillet, with the "Ashton Stauffer is hot" vote making a strong third-party run in Episode 4.
Three or four more episodes remain in Jambo's first foray into motion pictures, so stay tuned. It's worth noting, though, that no matter which heart-attack-on-a-plate wins this ordeal, Jambo's will also be adding some sides onto their menu collaterally.
For example, if the Volcambo is Facebook's favorite, onion rings and mac and cheese need a regular spot on the menu. Before the contest, Jambo' sides included just fried okra, cowboy corn, fries, coleslaw and potato salad. It's addition by addition, and Stauffer said she did have to quell some initial shock on the faces of her managers and line cooks.
"They were looking at me, going, 'how are we going to make all this stuff?'" Stauffer says. "That's the first thing my manager, Jennifer, said to me. But it's not that bad. Don't be projecting fear."
Whatever wins, Jambo's new menu item will not be for the timid or for anyone sporting even a slightly sensitive digestive track.
Aside from the bragging rights and the spot on Stauffer's menu, the Hot & Nasty Fatty winner will also receive a $500 gift certificate to Jambo's.
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