Fat Jack's BBQ
Glenn Gross, the mastermind behind the award-winning and nationally recognized Fat Jack’s BBQ had his first foray into the restaurant business as a 10-year-old delivering cheesesteaks on his bike.
Later, he ran a few hundred privately owned restaurants as part of Great American Hospitality. He started as assistant manager and wound up as president of the company.
Wanting his own stake in the restaurant world, Gross and his best friend traveled around the world looking for their next restaurant venture.
“We just started talking to pitmasters and bar-b-cue people,” Gross recalled. “Next thing I know we were working on our own concept.”
That concept materialized into a 300-page business plan. A New Jersey native, Gross was two weeks away from opening what would be his first Fat Jack’s BBQ in Vineland, N.J., in 1993, but still didn’t have a name. He kicked a pile of trash and said, “What about Fat Jack’s?”
In a whirlwind, the eatery’s blues-loving pig logo was created, and the 10,000-square-foot full-service restaurant opened. Gross opened five or six similar locations, which sat more than 200 people.
Eventually, he opted to downsize the company and focus on street fairs and festivals.
Fast forward to now and the five current Fat Jack’s locations – including the newest in Falls Township – are about 1,500 square feet, with seating for about 60. Gross and his son, Kevin, own all the locations and are looking to sell franchises.
The last time Fat Jack’s was involved in franchising, Gross said the partners essentially took over the company and kicked him out. He had to pursue legal measures to get Fat Jack’s back. Now a bit wiser, Gross said he is warily looking to grow – on his terms.
“Kevin and I want to take a step back and look at everything,” he said, adding that investors are eyeing the enterprise. “I’ve always had delusions of grandeur. I always knew we’d be big. I always knew that Fat Jack’s would be around for a long time.”
Crafting high-quality, made-to-order food items helps with longevity. For the most part, food items are the same from location to location, with a few exceptions. At the Falls Township eatery, which employs 10, Gross offers a half-pound “Big Ol’ Hunk O’ Bacon,” and a Texas Big Beef sandwich, items unavailable anywhere else.
Fat Jack’s also features a variety of smoked meats, including ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork and chicken and “down home sides,” such as mac n’ cheese, fried corn on the cob, cornbread and collard greens.
“It’s all made to order,” Gross said. “People have to understand with us we’re not fast food. We’re not McDonald’s.”
Gross said he’s had people leave because they didn’t want to wait 10 minutes for their meal.
Still, Gross and his team must be doing it right. Fat Jack’s has won more than 200 local and national awards, grand championships and state championships for ribs, shoulder, brisket, chili, wings and sauces.
The rubs and sauces are made specifically for Fat Jack’s and other seasonings and meat selections are all “top of the line,” according to Gross.
“I want to give you the best possible item I can give you,” he said.
In addition to drawing crowds for award-winning food, Gross, who has appeared on the Food Network, as well as BBQ Pitmasters alongside some of the best bar-b-cue champions in the world, sees throngs of fans who recognize him from TV.
“I get stopped for autographs and pictures,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
He has also appeared on Good Day Philadelphia and has done more than 80 food segments for Fox 29. Gross is hoping to keep the momentum going with an in-the-works TV show like “Restaurant Impossible,” which will focus on the real working inner world of concessions at street fairs and festivals.
“People want to eat at restaurants that they see on TV,” he said, adding that after the appearances Fat Jack’s saw “lines out the door.”
To learn more
Fat Jack’s BBQ is located at 229 Plaza Blvd Suite 29A. Dine-in, take-out and catering are available. Hours are Monday through Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information call 267-797-5304, visit the Website: http://fatjacks.net/ or click here to review the menu and order online: https://www.grubhub.com/restaurant/fat-jacks-bbq-229-plaza-blvd-unit-ste-29a-morrisville/392876