Day by day, Scott Bartlett arrives at Southwest Pit BBQ at 7 a.m. to start preparing and cooking the food he will serve all day long. He runs back and forth between the kitchen, the counter and the smoker outside until he leaves around 9 or 10 p.m. While owning and operating a restaurant with only his girlfriend and grandmother to help can be quite busy, Bartlett does it all for his customers.
After attending college at Arizona State University and finding roots in Phoenix until 2007, Bartlett moved back to his hometown of Lincoln with thoughts of opening up a barbeque restaurant. He opened Southwest Pit BBQ on the corner of 16th and P Street with hopes of sharing the skills he acquired in Arizona with the Lincoln community.
“I had a couple of friends that were in the restaurant business in Arizona,” Bartlett said. “One of them is a barbeque place and I learned how to do some stuff from him. He taught me how to smoke.”
When Bartlett moved back to Lincoln, his sister had recently passed and his mother was ill. Bartlett said this is why he initially opened Southwest Pit BBQ as a family business. Thirteen years later, it’s still running the same, with Bartlett having help from his girlfriend and grandma. While additional help would be nice, Bartlett said he struggles to find someone who would treat the position with the respect he feels it deserves.
“The help right now is not really up to par in the restaurant business,” Bartlett said. “I think people are more just looking for a job. I would really like to have somebody that would want to come on and be a manager, but that’s down the road.”
As an alumna of Phi Kappa Psi at ASU, Bartlett said that the social aspect is his favorite part of his job at the restaurant.
“I love seeing my customers,” Bartlett said. “I know a lot of them and a lot of the kids that come in, too. I’m a fraternity guy so I know a lot of the fraternity guys that come in. I do a lot of catering for them.”
Being within close proximity to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Bartlett said that students account for about 60% of his customers during the school year. He said he enjoys keeping up with them and growing a connection with the students that come in regularly.
“I had one kid that was here as an out-of-town student with his mom,” Bartlett said. “He came and saw me all four years. He and I became friends; it was like a dad relationship. I told him to join a fraternity … I really saw him change from being shy to holding a position in his chapter. I still talk to him and he’s in California now.”
Darcy Dykstra, Bartlett’s girlfriend, attested to Bartlett’s love for his customers and said that his excellent customer service is what drives business.
“People like to come back,” Dykstra said. “He definitely caters to the customers. We like to give out certain items if they’ve never been there so they can try it. He likes to get to know them on a first name basis and remembers each and every one of them. He just really enjoys it.”
Students who go into Southwest Pit BBQ will receive a $5 lunch combo that includes a pulled pork sandwich, chips and a drink, as long as they show a student ID.
Bartlett encourages people to come in and try his southern-style barbeque made just as he likes it.
“The love makes it special. We give it as much love as we can,” Bartlett said. “We have a family rub that we use. A lot of barbeque is just time and temperature and practicing. Practice for everything makes perfect.”