Pal's Big Hot Dog

Earlier in the week, our group at Times Digital Group were part of a Quality Management seminar at the Pal’s Business Excellence Institute in Kingsport.

If you’ve ever spent anytime in Kingsport, one of the most memorable local tastes are found at a quirky restaurant that features pastel colored buildings, oversized effigies of hot dogs and hamburgers accented by the largest US flags in town.

Pal’s restaurant chain has 23 locations in the Tri-Cities and is a Malcolm Baldridge Award Winner and recognized around the world as one of the countries most successful fast food operations serving thousands every day. In fact, you can hardly pass by a Pal’s restaurant and not see several cars lined up outside this unique destination.

In spite of their popularity, Pal’s lives up to a their service motto 24-7 with “Sudden Service.”

The nucleus of this operation is Pal Barger. A charismatic and intriguing local personality who has been running this group of restaurant for close to 60 years. Now in his eighties, he continues to intrigue me every time we meet with his enthusiasm, humor and dedication to “delight” every one of his customers.

It was threatening snow this past Wednesday when we arrived and there were about 40 restauranteurs who were attending the Pal’s quality training – looking to improve their own operation which included some 730 stores across Canada.

Pal Barger was in attendance and in his always familiar inviting manner, and he asked if I wanted to sit at the “Big Hot Dog.”

In the corner of the room was a custom-made wood desk made in the shape of a hot-dog, one of Pal’s signature menu items. Accented by two custom made chairs that looked like bags of french fries, the desk is hard to approach without a warm amusement.

Designed by Pal’s long-time friend, Tony Barger, the desk is about eight feet in width and 4 feet wide. With a bright enamel finish this desk is probably a one-of-a-kind – made for a local legend who fits the same description.

So the next time you drop by Pal’s, keep in mind that the real work starts at the desk of the Big Dog!