In October of 2012, Nashville-based Back Yard Burgers Inc. filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and immediately closed 19 locations around the region–including 8 in Arkansas–leaving roughly 350 people with no job and no warning. In spite of the turmoil within the corporation, Saline County resident Josh Powell passionately believed in the quality of the product and his employees. Josh dug his heels in and was determined to keep his Back Yard Burgers location in Bryant open and began making plans to grow the business.
Josh grew up in Benton and started in the business of serving the public in 1989. His first job was a cook for Wendy’s, a company that his father worked for as Vice President at the Little Rock location. This is where Josh learned about his love for good food and serving the others.
Now some 25 years later, Josh is married and he and his wife Joey are busy running both the Benton and Bryant locations of Back Yard Burgers and raising their growing family. The Powell’s have six children ranging in age from 12 to the youngest who arrived Friday, January 14. (Grace, 12; Izzy, 10; Jake, 9; Remy, 6; Jack Henry, 3 and no name has been selected yet for the new baby). The kids along with Josh’s parents are all involved in running the business. It really is a family affair. “My mother (Stevie) does payroll, trains new employees and handles all creative work.”
Josh will tell you that his wife Joey is the resident therapist, counselor, detective, lawyer and overall “oracle of common sense.” “My wife helped me manage the store for 15 years or more but she has taken a lesser role as our family has grown.” The small army of kid-sized Back Yard Burgers employees does what it can to keep up with daily tasks. “My kids help with dining room cleanliness, but some days it’s really dining room destruction,” jokes Josh.
Josh’s father, Gifford Powell, has over 40 years experience in the business and serves as handyman, an amazing grill cook, Josh’s voice of reason and mostly importantly a mentor. “My Dad taught me the business. Not just how to run a store, but how to lead a diverse team. He is the consummate peacekeeper and very laid back, but firm leader.”
Josh put what he learned from his Dad into practice in November of 1998 when he opened the Bryant location of Back Yard Burgers. Josh personally involved in his business and is at one of the stores everyday, leading by example. “On a typical day, I come into work and manage the store. I help out where needed, cooking, taking orders, and cleaning up. I work at it just like everybody else.” Josh’s business doubled in size in November of 2013 when he acquired the Backyard Burger Benton location on Military Road. Now, between the two restaurants, Josh employs roughly 25 people.
Josh’s business philosophy focuses not only on his family, but investing in the lives of his employees and their families. “We take the responsibility of developing the youth and the people that work with us seriously. We try to treat our people like family, and instill our family values of having fun, taking pride, and being accountable for our actions.”
Part of Josh’s success is due in part to the vision he’s established for the business. “We treat our guests with genuine kindness and respect, we always deliver hot, fresh, delicious food, we get results the right way, we enjoy working here and we succeed together.”
When the Back Yard Burger corporation closed the doors of more than a dozen locations, Josh’s motivation to remain open stemmed from the belief that there was a better way to do it. “We felt a sense of loyalty to our customers, employees and to the best burger you will eat. Josh says Back Yard Burgers hamburgers stand out because all beef is 100% black angus with no fillers, meaning all of the best cuts of beef, and the secret ingredient is fire. “We slow cook our burgers on an open flame, just like you would in your own back yard.”
At a time when business was uncertain and others closed their doors, Josh Powell and his family believed in their product and took a risk that has allowed them to remain true to their values and grow the brand using their own standards for outstanding service and great burgers as the guide.