Charleston, S.C. Sticky Fingers Ribhouse, with 12 barbecue restaurants in the Southeast, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. While the past 25 years have brought many ups and downs for the company, Sticky Fingers’ focus this year is to return to its roots with one of the founders, Chad Walldorf back at the helm. By reintroducing the original emphasis, legendary service and incredible barbecue, and by bringing back some of the old Sticky culture, Walldorf hopes to return the restaurants to their glory days.
It all started in 1992 with three high school friends, Walldorf, Jeff Goldstein and Todd Eischeid, who all moved from Tennessee to Charleston, South Carolina to open a rib restaurant they named Sticky Fingers. They knew a good bit about cooking Memphis style-barbecue, but not much else. Over the next fifteen years, Sticky Fingers Ribhouse grew to 16 restaurants in 5 Southeastern states and was regularly featured in local and national publications for having some of the best ribs, wings and barbecue in the country. They credited the success to the help of some incredible team members and great customers along with a focus on providing legendary service and preparing authentic, Memphis-style barbecue.
About a decade ago, the trio sold their company in order to focus on their young families. During the following ten years, Sticky Fingers drifted away from its roots in almost every way – from the menu to the staff to the atmosphere. The company’s headquarters was moved to various cities around the Southeast that didn’t have Sticky Fingers restaurants.
At one point, it was even owned by a group of lenders.
“Banks aren’t usually known for their incredible hospitality,” said Walldorf in discussing the decline of his former company. Many of Sticky’s long-time employees left as did some of their loyal customers. “It was extremely hard to watch the decline of the brand we built, the culture we helped create and the people we cared about,” said Walldorf.
Last year, Sticky Fingers Operating Partner Robert Patterson convinced Walldorf to return and help him in his efforts to turn the brand around. “After visiting some of the restaurants, I realized the Sticky spirit was still there,” Walldorf said. “The brand was somewhat tarnished but spirit was still alive amongst Robert, many long-time team members and loyal customers so I agreed to help Sticky Fingers get its mojo back.”
Going into their 25th year with a new (old) focus, a new (old) management philosophy, a new (old) home office in South Carolina and a rejuvenated spirit, Walldorf, Patterson and their team are ready to bring Sticky back.
“We’ve retooled our atmosphere, our menu and our culture. It’s been like one of those restaurant make-over shows - but in real time over many months rather than just in an hour-long show,” Walldorf said. “Our focus has returned to doing what we do best – providing legendary service with incredible ribs, wings and barbecue.”
In celebration of their 25th anniversary, Sticky Fingers Ribhouse will offer specials throughout the year featuring barbecue combinations you can’t find on their regular menu and highlighting their signature barbecue sauces.