BBQ: Deliciously Recession-Proof?

To save a few dollars in a recession, people filling up their cars at the Shamrock gas station in Kansas City might consider cutting back on how much they drive.

But they still have to eat, which may explain why the barbecue restaurant tucked just inside this gas station on West 47th Street has a line all the way from the counter to the door.

Here at Oklahoma Joe's, the faithful are drawn by the mouth-watering pork ribs, roast chicken, baked beans and french fries. And bucking industry trends, the restaurant is thriving by offering ways to help customers stretch a dollar.

"We've seen our sales increase as the economy has contracted and tightened," said Steve Querrey, the director of operations at Oklahoma Joe's. "A family of four can get in and out of here for 25 bucks, 30 bucks. We're very reasonably priced."

Revenue is down at fast-food giants like McDonald's, which last week reported a 7 percent drop in second quarter revenue.

But bucking that trend, say experts, are places like all-you-can-eat buffets and barbecue restaurants that offer a lot of food for the money.

Despite those numbers, Querrey has been busy. He says Oklahoma Joe's sells 1,000 slabs of ribs and about 7,000 to 8,000 pounds of beef, pork and chicken every month. Sales at are up 15 percent over last year at a time when growth rates in the $566 billion-dollar restaurant industry are down.

"We keep these running 24 hours a day," Querrey said, showing off several giant barbecue smokers behind the restaurant.

Big Barbecue Portions Mean Affordability

The National Restaurant Association, an industry group based in Washington D.C., said that real sales -- adjusted for menu price increases and inflation -- declined in 2008 and 2009 for the first time in at least 40 years.

"That hasn't happened in the history of the association's sales tracking," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research.

"One of the reasons buffets continue to be popular with Americans is that Americans want control. And buffets offer the ultimate control in terms of portion size, selection, and the freedom of choice," Riehle said.

Barbecue also serves as great comfort food -- a quintessential American favorite in hard times. And the portions can be larger than at other less formal restaurants, some one meal can be stretched to feed more than one person.

At Kansas City's famous barbecue restaurant Arthur Bryant's, Alan Clark recently sat down to a meal of barbecued pork sandwiches with his family.

"Economically, it's not as bad as it appears when you look at the menu sometimes," Clark said as he reached for his favorite barbecue sauce. "I ended up making two-and-a-half sandwiches out of one sandwich," he said.

ABC News' Brian Campbell contributed to this report.

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