He’s been lauded as the maker of the best barbecue in America by Bon Appetit magazine; taken home top honors in the state from Texas Monthly; been heralded as the premiere barbecue cook in Austin by the American-Statesman; co-authored two popular cookbooks; and won a James Beard Award for best chef in the Southwest. Now, Aaron Franklin can add "Hall of Famer" to his list of achievements.


The Bryan native, who originally opened Franklin Barbecue as a small trailer in 2009 with his wife, Stacy, on the feeder road of Interstate 35 before moving the business into its current home on East 11th Street, has been named by the American Royal Association to the 2020 class of inductees of the Barbecue Hall of Fame.


"It’s obviously pretty darn cool. It’s super cool," Franklin said. "That’s a pretty high honor for barbecue; it’s up there with a Beard Award."


As cool as the award may be, Franklin acknowledges that such honors aren’t what drives him and his world-famous restaurant.


"For me, if I was shooting to win awards or something, I’d be doing it for the wrong reason," Franklin said.


It is the second year in a row that a cook with Austin ties has entered the illustrious group. Stubb’s BBQ founder C.B. Stubblefield, originally of Navasota, was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.


Franklin joins Desiree Robinson of Cozy Corner in Memphis and Joe Don Davidson, founder and owner of the Oklahoma Joe's Smoker Company, along with legacy inductees James Lemons and Warner Stamey, in the 2020 class. A ceremony is slated to take place Sept. 19 during the 2020 American Royal World Series of Barbecue at the Kansas Speedway.


Franklin’s latest honor comes during the most challenging time for his, and every Austin, restaurant. The Franklins closed their restaurant’s dining room and shifted to curbside service on March 17. The new system, which relies on advanced online ordering, has Franklin Barbecue doing about 55 percent of its normal business.


The new operational model hasn’t just cost the business money, it has drained Franklin Barbecue of the unique warmth that made visiting the restaurant so special for so many.


"When you take away the experience and the hospitality and the relationships and the high fives and the good times, when you take all of that away, you just got a to-go barbecue order; you didn’t really get the Franklin Barbecue experience," Franklin said.


And the new way of doing business looks like it could be here through most of the summer, as Franklin said he and Stacy are not looking to reopen their dining room anytime in the near future.


"Obviously, as soon as possible, but it’s more about the staff feeling comfortable with strangers from all over the place coming in. The stakes are so high. If somebody got sick, that would pretty much be the end of it. We can’t really risk that," Franklin said. "I can see us opening up in maybe September, when school starts. We have no idea what’s going to happen. Maybe there’s going to be a second round, maybe there’s not. Maybe in a couple of weeks we’re going to see a huge increase in numbers; if we do or don’t, are those numbers accurate? We just don’t have any reliable data. So, really, just like everybody else, we’re just wingin’ it."


The Franklins have not only had to get their arms around a new business model, but, like all barbecue restaurants, and many restaurants in general, Franklin Barbecue has had to adjust to rising beef prices.


Franklin Barbecue purchases its prime brisket from Creekstone Farms in Kansas, which sits outside of the supply chain associated with commodity beef found at many restaurants. But with the bottleneck in processing of commodity beef and the demand for ground beef causing shortages as more muscle cuts go to grind during the coronavirus pandemic, Franklin speculates there’s been an increased demand for the quality, niche product that his restaurant sources.


That pressure on the market has led to skyrocketing beef prices in recent weeks. Franklin has seen his price for brisket approximately double from late April to late May, rising to about $7.75 a pound. While Franklin has swallowed much of that and moved his food cost for brisket to about 70%, the rise in wholesale prices has shown up on the menu at Franklin Barbecue, where brisket went from about $21 per pound pre-coronavirus to $34 per pound market pricing in the last week of May.


In months and years past, when brisket prices would spike, the restaurant could rely on sales of merchandise to help offset the losses in food cost, but with the dining room closed, that’s no longer an option. Franklin, who says he is looking forward to lowering menu prices, thinks that brisket wholesale prices must be very close to their limit.


"I really can’t imagine getting much higher. I had always figured $7-something a pound was kind of impossible to get to," Franklin said.


Though prices, which Franklin expects to lower some in the coming weeks, have created some temporary strain, the pandemic exposing the fragility of the American food system has left Franklin grateful for the way they’ve committed to sourcing at his restaurant.


"This whole situation makes me really, really glad that we put in the leg work early on at Franklin Barbecue, in that we’ve had ethics the whole time. Because it’s totally saving our asses right now. The fact that we are so ethical in our procurement of these things, and it took us years to build up our herds specifically for what we do. And that’s my job, so that’s all the work that I’ve put into this. I feel really proud that we’re not struggling in a lot of areas that a lot of people are."


And, even with the higher prices, Franklin Barbecue is still selling out of its briskets each week, granted they’re only able to sell half as many via takeout than they had before, and drawing hungry crowds. Just another minor credential for a Hall of Fame resume.


MORE FROM AUSTIN360


Best barbecue in Austin


Takeout Treasure: The cheeseburger at LeRoy & Lewis


Vince Young Steakhouse calls out Adler on Twitter; Austin mayor responds


Food & Wine names Austin chef one of country’s 10 Best New Chefs