The discussion questions relating to the case focus students’ attention on breaking away from the intuitive/emotional “boom mentality” driving their business decision and ask them to focus more on analytical decision criteria to support their “go” or “no-go” decisions.
The authors interviewed one of the partners of Burned-N-Turned several times and read the partners’ brief business plan for the food trailer.
Partners are wrapped up in the “boom mentality” in the Bakken oil fields in 2011 and jump into their decision to open a food trailer restaurant to serve the oil field workers and others. But have they omitted important considerations for their business decision?
Complexity academic level
The study is appropriate for undergrad strategic management courses. The authors have tested the compact case in three sections of capstone senior-level strategic management courses.
CitationAnderson, B., Anderson, J. and Williams, S. (2019), "Burned-N-Turned: feeding the fracking boom", The CASE Journal, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 253-266. https://doi.org/10.1108/TCJ-01-2019-0004 Download as .RIS
Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited
“There’s not a business you can start in North Dakota right now that wouldn’t make it.” That is what Blair and his prospective business partners had been hearing. It was mid-Summer 2011 and for three months the partners had been discussing and planning a business to exploit this “no-fail” environment. Blair was home, reviewing their recent trip to Watford City (WC), ND, 500 miles away. They were anxious to start implementing their idea, a food truck that might become a restaurant. What additional analysis was needed before moving ahead?
Watford City, North Dakota
When five partners visited WC, everything they observed encouraged them. WC was in the middle of the Bakken oil fields. Fracking technology had become effective and oil production had doubled between 2007 and mid-2010. As a result, the population increased by 22 percent from 2000 to 2010. By mid-2011, hundreds of mostly men had taken new oil-field-related jobs. WC, a town of only 1,750, had no surplus housing. “Man camps,” temporary housing largely made up of trailers, had grown up around the area. The people were there to work, generally they were not interested in becoming part of the community. Many had homes and families elsewhere that they visited when possible and that they planned to return to eventually. Traffic flow was clogged with long lines of large trucks interspersed with many pick-up trucks and cars. This influx of workers needed to eat and due to their long, hard hours and good pay, they cooked very rarely.
The business idea began to evolve at an outside barbeque that Blair attended with his friend Sara and her family. Evan, her dad, who previously owned a construction business, had become excited about looking for opportunity in WC. He heard many stories from his stepson, who was driving trucks through WC and watching the fracking boom at ground zero. Evan had two daughters, Sara and Renee, one with a degree in business and both with experience in services, who were excited about finding a business opportunity.
The family learned about Blair’s reputation as an excellent cook among his friends and family and his years of experience in catering. During winters, he had worked for a company serving meals at Phoenix, Arizona area events including the world-renowned Barrett-Jackson auto auction. Summers found him feeding large numbers of wildland fire fighters across the American West.
Blair’s primary contribution to the partners’ efforts was his catering management experience. The business would start as a food truck and could potentially expand to a restaurant. The concept they focused on was “good food fast” to serve those who worked in the local oil fields. Their goal was to have an attractive and variable take-out menu of mainly burgers, sandwiches and Mexican food items, made to order, and in the customer’s hand within 3 min, at 11 dollars average cost (see Exhibit 1). They planned to eventually be open from breakfast until 11 p.m., longer than competitors, and open seven days a week – as the oil fields were operating at all hours every day.
The name, Burned-N-Turned, was truckers’ slang: to get the delivery out quickly, pick up another load and turn around for home. It was meant to appeal to truckers and oil rig workers, the core target market.
When the partners visited WC, none of them thought that it would be a wonderful place to live since there was little community and North Dakota winter weather. But there was clearly opportunity. When they walked around town looking at restaurants, all seemed packed. One of the nicer restaurants had a 45 min wait during supper. The few restaurants in WC had limited hours and some were closed Sundays, a practice from when it was a sleepier town (see Exhibit 2).
Six of the seven partners would move to WC to staff the food truck (see Exhibit 3). They decided there would be no additional employees for at least six months. They would work in shifts so that each person would work two weeks and then have two weeks off. This would make WC tolerable.
They created a brief business plan for the food truck, written by Evan’s daughter, Renee. Start-up funding of $75,000 was offered by Evan’s sister, Pam. Evan’s stepson connected them to the owner of a truck maintenance shop in WC who agreed to lease them a very desirable roadside lot next door, an ideal location with quick, convenient access, especially for large trucks.
Time to implement, or is it?
As Blair said later:
When we went to see it, it was proof. The competition was at its limits, they couldn’t serve all the potential customers they could have had. They were doing the best they could, but it wasn’t enough. This town needed us. We had proof, we could see it. We saw a ‘can’t lose’ situation. We could see by the traffic, it was a boom. We knew it was going to work – there was no doubt we were going to succeed.
After returning home to Bozeman, Montana, the partners’ enthusiasm was even higher. They were wrapped up in what Blair called a “boom mentality.” Everything they observed on their visit, news items they had been seeing for several years, and the data Renee included in the business plan pointed to a solid opportunity. Further, Evan and another partner, Matt, had just advised the partners that in Texas they had found the ideal food trailer for Burned-N-Turned. It was in very good condition with all the tools and equipment they would need to serve their potential customers with high-quality food fast. This news only added to their boom mentality. They assured themselves that their endeavor would be successful – even if they encountered set-backs they would be able to overcome them (see Exhibit 4). Blair’s enthusiasm continued to grow, and his excitement for the new business was bubbling over. But was there anything about the decision they had overlooked?
|Partner||Degree||Experience||Years||Food service experience||Years||Positive attributes|
|Blair||Bachelor of Science, Finance||Financial Consultant||1||Service Worker – Restaurant and catering||16||Positivity, commitment, adaptability, organization, patience, Spanish language experience|
|English Teacher||2||Seasonal Catering Crew – Wildland fire support||6|
|Staff Writer||4||Catering Manager||3|
|Cook – Home and special events||16|
|Evan||na||Carpenter||35||Cook – Home and special events||45||Discipline, problem solving, time management, endurance, networking, relatability|
|Sara||Bachelor of Arts – Photography||Photographer||10||Service Worker – Restaurant and catering||5||Dedication, direct communication, creative thinking, focus, passion|
|Cook – Home and special events||10|
|Renee||Bachelor of Science, Business Management||Human Resources Generalist||8||Hospitality Manager||4||Organization, ambition, intelligence, critical thinking, communication|
|Pam||na||Small Business Owner||25||Cook – Home and special events||45||Leadership, practicality, ethics, empowerment, encouragement, consulting experience|
|Small Business Partner||10|
|Matt||na||Construction Laborer||35||Guide/Cook – Guided tours/adventures||20||Attention to detail, knowledge, fearlessness, easygoing attitude, travel/adventure experience|
|Carpenter||30||Cook – Home and special events||40|
|Sheila||N/A||Construction Laborer||15||Service Worker/Cook – Restaurant and catering||5||Teamwork, communication, honesty, open-mindedness, approachability, flexibility|
|Carpenter||15||Cook – Home and special events||17|
|Marcus||na||Construction Laborer||20||Service Worker/Cook – Restaurant and catering||5||Enthusiasm, loyalty, logical thinking, productivity, outgoing personality, resourcefulness|
Burned-N-Turned start-up budget
|Computers and software||$1,400|
|Insurance for business and trailer||$2,000|
|Trailer moved to WC location||$3,000|
|Coffee machine, ice machine, etc.||$3,000|
|Uniforms and printed forms||$1,100|
|Prepare trailer for full operation||$2,350|
|Partners Relocation to Watford City, ND||$2,500|
Exhibit 2. BNT mission and keys to success
Burned-N-Turned mission statement
The mission of Burned-N-Turned is to provide delicious food that can easily be consumed on the go. We seek to provide food fast, not fast food and to do so with the customers’ needs as our top priority.
Keys to success
Keys to success for our company will include:
We will be open seven days a week and our hours will be extended beyond what other establishments offer.
We will have a convenient location with easy access to the highway. No one will have to go through the congested streets of Watford City to reach us.
We will offer food with more flavor and character. Eating our food will be more enjoyable.
Disclaimer. This case is written solely for educational purposes and is not intended to represent successful or unsuccessful managerial decision making. The authors may have disguised names; financial, and other recognizable information to protect confidentiality.
About the authors
Beauvais R. Anderson is Copywriter at AP Professionals, Portland, Oregon, USA.
Joe Anderson is based at The W.A. Franke College of Business, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA.
Susan K. Williams is based at The W.A. Franke College of Business, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA.