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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Food after football: Q&A with Gary Brackett

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He’s a retired superstar football player, author, philanthropist and successful entrepreneur. For Gary Brackett, the key to life isn’t in garnering a bunch of accolades or material wealth, but in discovering and defining what one’s passion truly is. After retiring from the Colts franchise in 2011, Brackett went back to the basics and found his stride in the restaurant world. Currently he has CharBlue, an upscale steakhouse in downtown Indianapolis, and Stacked Pickle, a casual-dining sports bar, under his belt. Soon, Brackett fans may even see his life story on the big screen. 

Recently, the Recorder caught up with Brackett to discuss some of his life lessons, failures and future plans. 


Indianapolis Recorder: When you were first thinking about your life after football, how did being a restaurateur come into play?

Gary Brackett: My first job was as a dish boy; I did that for about a year when I was in high school. You get taught a lot of life lessons in the back-of-house in restaurants, and it was always something that intrigued me. When I (retired from football), I wanted to have a business that pretty much ran on a playbook, where I could take that playbook and I could just operate within it. I think that restaurants give me that ability to understand one system and just scale on that system. 


When you think about where you started and where you are now, what do you think of your journey? 

I think the journey is consistent with life. There are ups and there are downs. Obviously, I had a failed restaurant in Georgia Reese’s … and I was really passionate about it. For whatever reason, just because it was a new restaurant, we really couldn’t have the system that we have built into Stacked Pickle. We weren’t afforded those same systems inside Georgia Reese’s, so it was tough trying to find the right people to manage the concept; I had to make a tough decision that if I was going to really grow the Stacked Pickle concept, then I needed to fold the one Georgia Reese’s and transfer the other one to a steakhouse (CharBlue) and partner with someone that was very proficient in that lane. CharBlue is doing phenomenally, and Stacked Pickle is primed for growth with its franchise opportunities. I look back and feel that it was the right decision. It was, however, a painful one and cost me a lot of money, but I feel like if we can’t do the best we can and put our best foot forward then it’s just going to continue not living up to the expectations. 


What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from that experience? 

I think I was just moving too fast. I should have interviewed more people, in terms of the people that were responsible for the day-to-day. It is a big responsibility, and there were a lot of people I was delegating to. For me, I think I should have dove in more and learned it. Whereas now, I feel that I am proficient and I learned what I needed to learn. 


What advice do you have for people in any field who are looking to answer the question, “What’s next for me?” 

First of all, it should be something that you’re passionate about. You shouldn’t be chasing the dollar, because then you’ll never get excited. I learned to seek my happiness by living my desires rather than satisfying them. So it just means, if you’re always chasing the dollar within your industry or what you want to do at your next job, you’ll be empty. But if you chase what you’re passionate about, which for me is serving people and helping people, I think that’s very fulfilling. What I’m doing now fits my life goals. 


Speaking of goals, this fall will mark a year in your new venture, CharBlue, what is next for you? 

I wrote a book in 2011, Winning: From Walk-On to Captain, in Football and Life, about my life and journey and some of the adversity I had to overcome, and recently I went to Hollywood to shoot a sizzle reel to turn it into a movie. That’s something I’m really passionate about. Hopefully we’ll be shooting that next year; everything looks to be moving forward. With Stacked Pickle, we plan to open three to five stores a year between corporate and franchise stores, so that should keep me busy as well. 


To learn more about opening up a Stacked Pickle franchise, visit buildthepickle.com.

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