The Legend of the Z-Man
In 1997, not long after Jeff and Joy opened their barbecue joint at the corner of 47th & Mission Road in Kansas City, Kansas, they were approached by a fellow by the name of Mike Zarrick who had an idea to pitch.
“I recognized the guy,” recalls Jeff. “He was a regular customer. He told me how much he liked our restaurant, and said that he was about to launch his own sports talk radio program on a new station in town; 1510 AM. It was just a little start-up station, and the jocks actually had to buy their own time on the air and sell their own advertising. So, I decided to take a chance on the guy. What sold me was his absolute passion for our barbecue. I’d rather partner up with someone with passion and enthusiasm at a little station, than with some big conglomerate with all the Arbitron numbers and no passion.”
About six months later Jeff had an idea. “I had created this new sandwich which featured sliced smoked brisket, smoked provolone cheese, a couple of onion rings, a bit of barbecue sauce, all on top of a Kaiser roll. So, I went to Zarrick and asked him to talk about the sandwich on the air, and to invite his listeners to try the sandwich in the restaurant and to submit names to the sandwich. It would be a contest, and the winner would get a prize and we’d use that name on the menu.
“Well, Zarrick was getting pretty popular and he had begun calling himself ‘Z-Man’ on the air. So when people came in to try the sandwich as part of the contest, they would ask for ‘that Z-Man’ sandwich. Eventually, a winning name was chosen, but it never stuck. By the time the contest ended, everybody was calling the sandwich the Z-Man! We’ve been calling it that ever since.”