Bryan Bingham

Bryan Bingham, pitmaster at Bodacious on Mobberly, is seen in September. “It’s definitely been a lot slower — we don’t have the lines like there once were, and we can only have so many people in the restaurant, but it could be worse,“ Bingham said of sales during the pandemic.

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series about how locally-owned, small businesses in the Longview area are faring — and in some cases surviving — in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bryan Bingham, pitmaster at Bodacious on Mobberly, says one of the keys to getting sales back on track amid the COVID-19 pandemic was eliminating the barbecue restaurant’s cash register.

After initially being forced into to-go orders only, business slowed, and Bingham began searching for other opportunities to boost sales.

“We were doing everything to try to pivot keep our head above water as best we can,” he said.

Looking to make the curbside pickup process more efficient, Bingham replaced his well-worn, old cash register with a modernized digital system that allowed online ordering and payment, something the business had previously never offered.

When occupancy levels were raised to 50%, Bingham said the Longview restaurant reopened its dining room and has maintained that occupancy level even when the rule was eased to 75%. Plexiglass panels in front of the register to separate employees and customers also have been added for COVID-19 safety.

“It’s definitely been a lot slower — we don’t have the lines like there once were, and we can only have so many people in the restaurant, but it could be worse,“ said Bingham, who graduated from Kilgore College’s culinary arts program and began working at the restaurant in 2017. “A lot of people lost their jobs or had to close down completely, so we were blessed to be able to keep the doors open.”

Bingham said the restaurant also has relied heavily on social media to keep customers lining up for items on its award-winning menu.

“We’re incredibly active on social media and try to engage that way to get people to come back in,” Bingham said. “We’re also in the process right now of trying to figure out some promotions to run to boost afternoon business.”

The restaurant is the original location of Little Roland’s Bodacious Bar-B-Q, which was opened in 1968 by Texas barbecue legend Roland Lindsey. Lindsey, who died in 2018 at 78, later franchised the business and changed the name simply to Bodacious Bar-B-Q.

Bingham encourages customers to do what they can to support local businesses.

“Without customers coming in here, we can’t do this.”