The ordinary, standard-issue yen for beef jerky or turkey jerky is easily satisfied at virtually any convenience store. A “gourmet” taste for the stuff, however, is another matter, and, as it happens, there are retailers out there that specialize in selling jerky products, and in a wide range of flavors, too. Seymour, Tenn.–based franchise chain Beef Jerky Outlet is among these, offering nearly 30 flavors in all. The company’s name is something of a misnomer, though: The chain could just as well have been called Ostrich Jerky Outlet, or Kangaroo Jerky Outlet, or even Alligator Jerky Outlet, because those meats are available there, as are various types of fish jerky. Much of the product is sold in barrels, while other jerky meats are kept in freezers, according to Steve Lyons, manager of the store in Dundee, Mich.
There are 26 Beef Jerky Outlet stores, mainly east of the Mississippi, at strip, outlet and lifestyle centers, as well as hybrid locations attached to convenience stores. The chain was founded in 2010 by Scott Parker, who is president and CFO and owns four of the stores himself, in Tennessee, and Paul Lyons, the company’s CEO and vice president, who owns the store his son, Steve, manages. Franchisees operate the rest of the units. Parker and Paul Lyons say they anticipate having a total of about 35 stores in operation by year-end, all of them franchised, and they have been in talks with large retail REITs such as Simon and Tanger Factory Outlet Centers. Moreover, they say they hope to secure agreements for an additional 75 to 100 franchised stores, also by the time this year is up.
Understandably, management likes to locate near retailers such as Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops, anywhere there are fishermen, hunters, hikers, backpackers and other lovers of the outdoors — and of jerky products. The Dundee store is the chain’s largest, at 3,000 square feet, though management’s ideal site typically measures between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet.
All the cooking is done at plants in Michigan and Tennessee, not at the stores, and Paul Lyons uses the term “micro-cookers of beef jerky” to describe the process, likening the company’s specialty offerings to micro-brewed beer. In Parker’s words: “Our jerky is made with the eye of the round, so it’s a very lean piece of meat. You start with 400 pounds, and you end up with about 180 pounds’ yield.”
Parker opened his first beef jerky store in 2006 in Tennessee, after a lengthy career with Intel and Sony. Paul Lyons had been a supplier for independent jerky stores around the country, including Parker’s store, before deciding in 2007 to buy his own shop, in Dundee. Later he and Parker opted to partner up and go the franchise route under the Beef Jerky Outlet banner. — Ian Ritter