Dan Janssen is a trained chef who’s spent almost two decades in the food industry. He studied at the Culinary Institute of America; he’s spent several years working within large restaurant organizations across the country perfecting his talents.
Despite Janssen’s extensive knowledge in the culinary business, when it came time to open his own barbecue place three years ago, the Rub Bar-B-Que Catering, it was back to studying.
“Barbecue’s a stumper,” said Janssen, who owns the Olathe restaurant with partners Dave Tines and Kevin Boetcher. “We went out on the Internet and started studying barbecue.… That summer we entered seven (barbecue) contests and took awards. When I go to those contests, I look up to those grand champions.”
Q: How did you get interested in barbecue?
Janssen and his family moved around the country, ending up in Kansas City when he went to work for Applebee’s restaurants.
“When we moved into the Kansas City area, we located in Lenexa near where the barbecue festival is held,” Janssen said. “My wife pleaded with me to make a tradition with the kids that they could grow up with, so we entered the Lenexa Barbecue Contest. We went the first year and failed miserably. It really irked me, so I worked all winter on it … and entered the next year and won the ribs category.”
Q: What led to your opening a restaurant?
Applebee’s was going through a corporate buyout and then the recession hit. Janssen was motivated to make a career change.
“I was frustrated with the corporate world,” he said. He had been playing around with barbecue with some colleagues and decided to make a move.
“My two barbecue team partners and I decided to open a restaurant.… I always wanted to have my own business. I think it’s something you’ve got to have inside you. I had made the mental decision — if it didn’t happen within the next four to five years it wasn’t going to happen.”
On New Year’s Eve three years ago, Janssen and the partners decided the time was right.
“My vision was to create a small barbecue concept that could be replicated, like a Chipotle,” Janssen said.
Working with a business plan, within six months the 3,000-square-foot, 85-seat restaurant the Rub opened in Olathe.
Q: What differentiates the Rub from other barbecue places?
“Most barbecue restaurants have one meat and one side they are famous for; we try to elevate our sides so that each is exceptional,” Janssen said. “We go after the burnt ends market that we sell daily and have hand-cut fries.… A section of our menu is where we get creative with bowl dishes — the Hillbilly and Hash Bowls.”
The restaurant also offers pulled pork tacos and a burnt ends burrito and offers catering. Janssen has created all the recipes.
Q: What are your main challenges?
Janssen said the Rub’s location has been an unexpected challenge. It’s easy to get to, on Ridgeview just south of K-10, but in a relatively undeveloped area.
“Traffic patterns and real estate have been a challenge,” he said. “We picked a growth area location.… Because it’s taken so long for Olathe to grow, it’s been a lot slower than we’ve anticipated.… We do an exceptional lunch business but dinner during the week we don’t have enough.”
The Rub’s catering business has helped, and the restaurant offers concession-based opportunities for area offices and businesses.
“That’s grown tremendously,” Janssen said.
Janssen employed another growth tactic, offering barbecue classes.
“A lot of people are interested in barbecue, so I started teaching a class last November — Rub for Beginners,” he said. “We’ve gotten such great reviews that we now have repeat students.”
Janssen has added additional classes including Backyard Barbecuing and Grilling Peaches, and will offer how to smoke a turkey this month. The classes are usually offered on weeknights or weekend mornings.
Q: Where are you headed with the business?
Janssen would like to market his sauce and rub.
“Neither are manufactured at this time, but we’re hoping to do that by Christmas time, along with our cornbread,” he said.
There’s also talk of a second location.
“The Wornall-State Line area is ripe at the 75th street area,” Janssen said. “Johnson County is still a good area, too. We’d like to see higher traffic counts.”
IN A NUTSHELL
COMPANY: The Rub Barb-B-Que Catering
ADDRESS: 10512 S. Ridgeview, Olathe, KS
WEB SITE: www.therubbarbque.com