Trey Hutchins on the Growth of Craft Barbecue from its Blue-Collar Roots | Dallas Observer


Burnt Ends to Texas Twinkies, Trey Hutchins Loves Every Bit of the Barbecue Business

Trey Hutchins holds a sampling of the fare that keeps Hutchins BBQ on our list of Top 100 Restaurants.
Trey Hutchins holds a sampling of the fare that keeps Hutchins BBQ on our list of Top 100 Restaurants. Chris Wolfgang
Hutchins BBQ may be the area’s most well-rounded barbecue spot. Whether you go to Frisco or McKinney, everything on the menu is consistently great. It’s no surprise that Hutchins was an inaugural member of our Top 100 Restaurants in 2018 and has yet to relinquish its spot.

We recently caught up with Hutchins co-owner Trey Hutchins at the Frisco location to talk some shop and find out if the food is as great as we remember. Good news: Hutchins’ smoking prowess is still top-notch, and Trey Hutchins is a gem to spend time with. Highlights from our conversation (and some drool-inducing photos) are below, which has been edited for length and clarity.

DO: So, what’s new?

TH: Well, we’re doing a 4,500-square-foot add-on to this building, probably six more pits, cold storage and office space, which we’ve needed for a while.

DO: You had just done a lot of work in McKinney a few years ago?

TH: Yeah, in 2017, we did a huge thing in McKinney.

DO: Then you had a fire.

TH: Yes sir. New Year’s Eve 2020. It was a little electrical fire, we thought we’d be down maybe a week or two. You know, something small. But the sprinklers went off and flooded the whole kitchen. It was right at $1.7 million in damages. We had to gut the whole kitchen and bring everything back up to code. It was kind of a weird period for us; we were just coming out of COVID, but we had actually grown our business during COVID.

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Every barbecue spot worth its rub has some take on a smoked stuffed jalapeño. Hutchins' Texas Twinkies are a prime example.
Chris Wolfgang
DO: Yeah, barbecue was one of those businesses that seemed well-suited for doing to-go orders.

TH: Exactly. And people were sitting out here for hours, wrapped around the building. It was really great, and we were able to grow. We were just glad we could take care of the customers, and they were supporting us. It was tough on everybody. So we get out through that hurdle, then McKinney catches fire. But we didn’t let any employees go; we brought all the McKinney employees over here. It was a challenge. We’ve got 180 or 190 employees. But it really unified our company.

DO: So you really got a lot stronger out of it.

TH: Exactly.

DO: But that’s a challenge, yes? With two restaurants, doing lunch and dinner for seven days, that’s got to be hard to be consistent all the time.

TH: Oh, it is. That’s the reason for so many pits. We’re adding four more pits in McKinney, too. But that’s so we can keep that product coming off the pits; we’ll do two loads of ribs, which are about five hours. We can do sausage every two hours. It’s all about pit space. But we don’t crowd our pits. These rotisseries here can hold about 60 briskets, and we never put more than 48 on there, no matter what. We could actually use more pits.

DO: That’s a good problem to have. Is the growth being driven by catering, or is it traffic in the restaurants?

TH: It’s both, really. We’ve just grown tremendously over the years. It really started with Texas Monthly putting us on the list in 2013. But I had seen this trend in craft barbecue. Tim (Trey’s brother) was making trips to Austin, and he had tried Aaron Franklin’s barbecue. He came back and said “I ate the best brisket” and I was like “There’s no way, we have the best brisket!” But Tim said “No, this was next level.” So we started doing research to get better. And after Daniel Vaughn came in and we got in Texas Monthly, it just took off.

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Who's hungry?
Chris Wolfgang
DO: We’ve seen it all over. There’s just such a demand for barbecue —

TH: It’s insane.

DO: Insane is a great word. And you and Tim are some of the OGs, who have done this for a long time. Do you see this stopping?

TH: Tim and I were just talking about this last week. Business is off the charts. Texas barbecue is hotter than it’s ever been. Guys are opening up everywhere. For me and Tim, growing up in barbecue, you did it to make a living.

DO: Yeah, because you started with your dad’s place in Princeton.

TH: Yes sir, Roy’s Barbecue, in 1978. And you know, when John Mueller came on with us in 2021, he really just needed a place to smoke some meats, but we’d spend Fridays and Saturdays out there just cooking barbecue, and we also spent a lot of time talking about where we came from. It was a blue-collar job. But now in the last three years, you’ve got Heim, you’ve got Panther City, the guys at Goldee’s are amazing, you’ve Cattleack, and Todd [David] is a good buddy of mine. It’s really cool what’s going on. It’s not just local, it’s national recognition. It’s a beautiful thing.

Our three-year plan, we just want to be the best we can be at these two locations. Maybe in three years, maybe we look at something, but we’re not there today. Could we do more? For a year, sure. But you’ve gotta be protective of that.

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Chunks of brisket in a tray of beans.
Chris Wolfgang
DO: Being conscious of your brand and everything that you and Tim have built leads into the question I’ve got to ask. Is there any news on the lawsuit front with your family and their new restaurant in Southlake?

TH: We’ll probably be in front of a judge in the next week or two. We just talked to our lawyers. But this isn’t easy. This has been going on for a couple of years. You know how this goes, people will always review you and expect it to be good, and having more restaurants, is that sustainable? And for me and Tim that’s what we had a problem with.

DO: And it’s doubly tough because it is your family.

TH: Me and Dad, we text often. I talk to my mom, maybe not daily but once a week. Me and Wes [Trey’s youngest brother] really aren’t talking right now. Going off the lawsuit, it’s just icky. It’s intimate. It’s family. If you had a business partner, you could just cut ties. But you can’t cut ties on your family. It’s just an ugly thing, and the way the public perceives it, it’s the last thing we wanted. We just filed the suit in January, but this is going on for three years. Now [Wes] is going to call it Roy Hutchins Barbecue, but there’s a lot of moving parts that have brought us to this point. We can’t come together.

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Beef ribs are the zenith of barbecue indulgences.
Chris Wolfgang
DO: It’s been trying times regardless, especially with food and labor costs where they are. How are you guys handling that?

TH: Our beef and food market is getting under control. But labor? It’s crazy. We’ve got people here making really good money, but a lot of that is the tips coming through because our sales are so high. There are people here that have been with us for 15 or 20 years. We give them a ton of credit. There’s no way we are where we are without them. When I talk about the Hutchins family, those people are the family.

DO: You guys end up at a lot of festivals. Are those a way for you to try something a little different, or get new customers, network with others or what?

TH: We do a lot. I wish we could do more. I love this business. I’ll be honest, I get bored easily. But I love customers, seeing smiles on their faces. It’s really cool to tap into craft barbecue, and how we all support each other. But seeing customers come up, they’re looking for that one bite. You’re only as good as your last meal. I like talking numbers, with my banker. What makes me happy is seeing someone grabbing that burnt end, eating that Texas Twinkie, that’s my true passion.

Hutchins BBQ, 9225 Preston Road, Frisco and 1301 N. Tennessee St., McKinney. Daily, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
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Chris Wolfgang started writing about barbecue for the Dallas Observer in 2015, and became the Observer’s restaurant critic in October 2021. In his free time, he’s a dog owner, plays a mediocre guitar and is likely recovering from his latest rec-league sports injury.
Contact: Chris Wolfgang

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