Barbecue is something very special to fans of that particular cuisine, and the owners of Chicago’s The Smoke Daddy share their passion. “The big idea behind Smoke Daddy is to deliver ridiculous-quality product that will make you walk away excited for your next visit,” says partner Josh Rutherford. “Our whole marketing plan is to get that message out to everybody, and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is central to that effort.”

The Smoke Daddy restaurant on West Division Street is the home of “Rhythm & BarBQue” and features live, local music every night. But Smoke Daddy also has a vibrant catering business, bringing barbecue and pig roasts to a host of corporate clients and private parties. That’s where its 2011 MB Sprinter 2500 High Roof Cargo Van with 144-inch wheelbase really proves its mettle. “Sprinter’s cargo capacity is amazing,” Rutherford says. “We recently attended the Taste of Chicago event where we did more than $100,000 in sales in a matter of hours. Every piece of equipment, signage, selling counters and even a couple of summer interns fit inside easily. Plus, we towed our 21-foot smoker behind it.” 

“We chose Sprinter because we didn’t want to align our business with anything less than the best, from our people to our equipment.”

Easily configurable, highly maneuverable

The Smoke Daddy Sprinter is fitted with customized, collapsible racks that make it easy to reconfigure for various uses, from catering events to delivering Smoke Daddy BBQ Sauce and other products to retail stores throughout Chicagoland. “The Sprinter is highly maneuverable, which is a real plus in Chicago’s congested streets, and it’s also a pleasure to drive,” Rutherford says.

Profit margins are slim in the restaurant business, just five to 10 cents on the dollar, so the fuel efficiency of Sprinter’s diesel engine and the Mercedes-Benz reputation for great reliability and customer service are all important, Rutherford says. With its eye-catching, red-and-black, full graphics wrap, the Smoke Daddy Sprinter is also a powerful marketing tool. “Our Sprinter is a traveling billboard, and we use every available inch to market to people,” he says. “We even have our phone number on the roof so people looking down from Chicago’s office towers know just how to find Smoke Daddy.”