BBQ Fast Pass is a Franklin Barbecue line-waiting service thought up by opportunistic 13-year-old, Desmond, to raise money for a car. Austin became aware of him after the launch of his website in June, to the point where even Franklin Barbecue made a statement about its line policy again. Following those rules, Desmond is already booked for June and July.
Eater had the chance to hang out with Desmond and his father Chris on line for Franklin this past Saturday morning. Here’s what we learned about how he’s dealt with the attention, his future plans, and what he’s willing to wait in line for, personally.
During the summer, do you wait every day?
Desmond: Yes, I’m booked every day.
What is your line schedule like during the school year versus summer?
Desmond: School, only the weekends.
What is your sleep schedule like?
Desmond: I want to sleep in on the weekends, and I stay up late on the weekdays and then I’m really tired. I had a sleepover last night and I stayed up until 12 [a.m.]. I only got six hours of sleep.
How do you select your clients?
Desmond: Well, we have Twitter and they find us. People who just ask us how much it is, and we email them and say how much it is for all of these packages and what days we have open, and they don’t reply...Those people aren’t reliable customers for us.
Do you have regular customers at this point?
Desmond: I’ve had repeating customers. Rachel.
Chris: Rachel. We have a TV producer who’s a repeat customer. We were beta-testing it with people at my work [he freelances in film and television].
What do your friends think of all of this?
Desmond: This is my friend Giovanni. He likes it because he used to wait in line with me. Some of my other friends, they’re just jealous.
What was your first day waiting in line like?
Desmond: It was in February and it was 30 degrees. So I had to wear a shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a compression shirt, and skiing jacket. It was really cold because I was just sitting down and I wasn’t doing anything. But that was my first time and it was with Rachel, the TV producer. It was fun.
How do you get here?
Desmond: My dad. And my mom sometimes.
How do you get home?
Chris: We’re probably going to start asking him to take the bus home.
How have you been dealing with all the attention on you?
Desmond: My dad helps me a lot.
Chris: I keep him from posting things on Twitter. I make him show me things before he posts them.
What do you think about Franklin’s policy?
Chris: We’ve already been following the rules. They reached out to Desmond and said we want to clarify the rules for you. We looked at the rules and we said, ‘We’re already doing it.’ He doesn’t sit for large groups. He’s always been very, very considerate and respectful of the people in line. We’ve always wanted him to not make people angry doing that. And people have come to us and said, ‘Hey, I have a group of eight or group of ten.’ They do that all the time. We say, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t do that.’ It doesn’t make sense for him to make people angry about it. It’s about making people happy and not making people angry. Those rules were very easy to follow because we already were doing it.
Desmond: Since he tagged me in that [tweet about one person for one to-go order], everybody thinks I’m being banned.
Chris: Some people are confused
Desmond: Well, not everybody. Most people think I’m not following the rules because he tagged me.
But it was more of a FYI-type thing.
Desmond: Yeah. It wouldn’t be fair to not tag me, but he did already tell me the rules.
Chris: There was confusion about that. Then people started being negative and saying, ‘Hey, he’s not following the rules,’ but he always follows the rules.
Have you ever met Aaron Franklin?
Desmond: No, I’ve never talked to him in person, but my dad talked to him a week ago.
Chris: In person. He’s a delightful person.
Desmond: He’s a role model.
Chris: Because he started that [points to Franklin Barbecue] in this little trailer and [points to Desmond] he’s starting on a little chair.
What made you decide on waiting in line at Franklin for this venture?
Desmond: My uncle, he works for Salesforce, so he’s savvy in business. He was talking about summer jobs and I was thinking about waiting in line for sneaker releases, like Jordans and Nikes. My dad didn’t think that was a good idea.
Chris: I was concerned he would really make people mad, because people get really upset about that.
Desmond: Then my uncle said that Franklin place is packed all the time. Wouldn’t it be great if someone would wait in line there? And then we all had the idea for me to wait in line.
Chris: We were trying to think of a name. One day, we were at dinner and he just goes, ‘What about BBQ Fast Pass?’ We all looked and each other: ‘That is brilliant.’ As we told people about it, to get a sense of who would pay for this, everyone was into it. It’s not that they want to cut in line, it’s that they don’t have time, and they’re very upset about that, that they can’t have it. So he’s letting them experience something that they never would be able to experience.
Desmond: They can wait in line, they really don’t have the time for it. It’s not like I’m waiting in line for someone who just doesn’t want to.
You’ve had the barbecue here before, right? What’s your favorite barbecue in Austin?
Desmond: Probably Franklin.
What would be your second?
Desmond: Valentina’s [Tex Mex BBQ]. And then I like La Barbecue and Micklethwait. I like Rudy’s, even though it’s…
Chris: It’s kind of like beer, you can’t have craft beer every day.
How do you keep yourself busy on the line?
Desmond: I talk to my friend when he’s here. I read books, I listen to music, I watch videos.
What music are you listening to?
Desmond: I don’t really have a favorite. I do like Frank Sinatra.
What about TV shows or movies?
Desmond: Movies, I just watched Shutter Island, that was good. And TV shows, I like Friends, Lost, The Simpsons, and Cops. I really like Cops.
Any interesting line stories since you’ve started?
Desmond: I saw someone fly a drone down here.
Chris: I think the best ones are when people just show up at 10:30 [a.m.]. They’re very naive and I feel so bad.
I know you like to talk to people on the line.
Desmond: It’s normally big groups of young people. Yesterday, I was talking to a group of people that were having a wedding in Dripping Springs. They were going to bring the food there. We were all talking about Harvard Business School.
Harvard Business School?
Desmond: Because I want to go there.
Do you follow @FranklinBBQLine?
Desmond: Yeah. I’m pretty sure he’s up there [pointing to the apartment building caddy corner to Franklin]. I’ve never seen him take a picture. He does it secretly.
You’re doing this to raise money for a car?
Desmond: Yeah, and college, and donate to Austin Dog Rescue.
After you get the money for the car, will you keep going?
Desmond: Yes, I’m going to keep going until I can’t do this anymore. I think I won’t be able to do it when I get older because I don’t really think anyone wants an 18-year-old in line for them.
And you’re donating to Austin Dog Rescue as well.
Desmond: I got my dog Leeloo, who’s a pit bull mix, from Austin Dog Rescue. I just wanted to give back and thank them for rescuing her. So I donate 5% of my funds. Every Monday, we post a dog that’s been on Austin Dog Rescue’s website for a long time and say, ‘Please adopt it.’ Like when I said that about Curious George.
Chris: At the end of the month, we’re going to figure out how much he made, and then give the 5% to Austin Dog Rescue. What we’re going to try to do is see if any local businesses want to match his funds because we’d like to be able to give more.
[To Chris] What do you think about his business?
Chris: It’s amazing. The most exciting thing is that most people have really great ideas in their life and they don’t do them. He had a great idea and he immediately started doing it. I’m very proud of him and I’m very impressed by him because he has the guts to take a chance and try something. Maybe it’ll fail, maybe it won’t, but he’s been very successful. I’m not totally shocked when it went viral. He has this special thing about him.
And barbecue is very important to the city.
Chris: Yes. People are really happy about it because they’re getting a chance to get something that they couldn’t get before.
Do you have any other summer plans besides this?
Desmond: No. I wanted to go to my uncle’s house [in California]. I would love to go to his house, but I can’t really deny all these customers and say, ‘I can’t do this because I’m going over to my uncle’s house.’ ‘Oh yeah, I thought you said that you were open every day in the summer.’
Do you have any advice for Aaron Franklin?
Desmond: I don’t really know how the [takeout] trailer is going to work. I’d like it if he would explain what that is.
What would you wait in line for?
Desmond: I would wait in line for a rollercoaster or sneaker release.
But not food?
Desmond: As long as it’s [Franklin].
Anything else you want to add?
Desmond: I respect what everyone does, but I think it’s a little bit crazy to wait in this line and just get a sandwich.