Like many restaurateurs, COVID-19 has turned Brad Leighninger’s world upside down.
When 2020 started, the highly decorated pit master and co-owner of Gettin’ Basted in Branson and Downing Street Pour House in Hollister was looking forward to an amazing year.
His team was set to open two new restaurant in Nixa and Springfield. Leighninger started off with big wins in the barbecue competition circuit and organized the first Gettin’ Basted Open, a KCBS-sanctioned competition slated for Memorial Weekend in Hollister. Barbecue teams around the nation and world signed up and soon there was a waiting list. But Leighninger recently made the difficult decision to cancel the competition.
“It was just looking like the responsible thing to do in light of everything. Our best case prediction is people and tourists will start coming back around the time of the contest and if that was the case, we’d have a better place to put our money,” he says.
Leighninger has also had to shutter the Branson and Hollister restaurants, but hopes to open their doors again as soon as he is able.
“The population base down there is based on tourism. We couldn’t support those restaurants now,” he says. “It is obviously one of the most difficult decisions we have ever made. Branson had just come off the slow season, January and February, so a lot of employees were laid off already. It hit at the worst time. We just spent a good chunk of our capital getting Nixa open when this happened. Due to long-term viability of our company, we had to make some of these decisions.”
Leighninger is accepting catering orders for hospitals and doctor’s offices in the Branson area. The food is cooked at the Gettin’ Basted in Nixa, which is still open to customers and offers curbside pickup and delivery through Door Dash.
“Nixa had a very strong opening and big community support,” he says. “The hope is treading water. We are putting out quite a bit of food on weekends. Nixa is open seven days a week, 11am to 7pm. For group businesses, we are happy to run it out to them. We are open and available to them.”
The menu includes barbecue-inspired pub fare, from wings and burgers to shepherd's pie.
Earlier this year, a franchisee announced plans to open a Downing Street Pour House in Springfield, scheduled to open in May. The restaurant now plans to open later in the summer.
Leighninger also planned to compete in nearly 30 professional barbecue competitions this year, which have also been cancelled. “Barbecue might be on pause. This might be a lost year for barbecue contests,” he says.
But the pit master still remains optimistic.
“We do believe this is temporary,” Leighninger says. “We think this is the right thing to do as difficult as it is. As soon as travel starts back, we are going to bring everyone back. We think the economy, especially the Branson economy, will spring back to life. Demand is still there. We are optimistic long-term. Our number one priority is bringing back our employees.”
Gettin’ Basted, 606 W. Mount Vernon St., Nixa, Missouri, 417.374.7394, gettinbasted.com