What Happened To Bubba's Boneless Ribs After Shark Tank?

The trouble with so many physically-demanding sports is that they can only be performed for so long before the sportsperson is inevitably controlled by the ceaseless encroachment of aging. Unless your chosen sport happens to be speed eating contests, obviously — they may put a lot of pressure on the stomach, but at least they don't require much movement.

Pity, then, Al "Bubba" Baker. During an extensive NFL career, Bubba's Q explains that he played for teams including the Lions, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Cleveland Browns. At the age of 34 he retired from the NFL — but with only a fraction of his life complete, how would he fill his time after sport? The answer is, of course, barbecue ribs.

Baker decided to challenge himself by tackling an ancient problem: How can eating ribs be made less messy? Designing a way of preventing the need to constantly wipe away juicy, dripping barbecue meat while eating ribs is definitely an ambitious battle, but, according to Success, Baker pulled it off, producing a product that could be microwaved quickly to cook convenient ribs with much less mess. So, let's take a look at how he achieved it — and why starring on "Shark Tank" was a stroke of genius.

Baker almost went broke investing in boneless ribs

Baker developed his cooking skills and affection for ribs from his uncle, Daddy Jr., explains Bubba's Q. Daddy Jr., whose real name was Melton Jenkins Jr., founded the first Jenkins Quality Barbecue restaurant in 1957, which boasted a secret sauce recipe passed down through generations. Jenkins shared the restaurant's secrets with Baker — who opened his own sports-themed barbecue restaurant Bubba's-Q, reports News 5 Cleveland.

Baker founded Bubba's Q Boneless Ribs in 2012 after his wife complained that the restaurant's traditional ribs were too messy, notes Success. According to the patent, which is still held by the Baker family, the boneless ribs are created by cooking beef or pork and then removing the bones, leaving the meat otherwise intact and canceling the "tedious, embarrassing, and messy nature" of eating ribs.

Although a worthy cause, Baker's boneless ribs weren't an instant financial success. He reveals on YouTube that almost all of his restaurant's profits had been wiped out by investment in the special ribs, and Success reports that he was in negotiations with his bank to try to keep the company afloat — even though the boneless ribs were sold in 48 Ohio stores. In an effort to help, Baker's daughter applied for him to appear on "Shark Tank," resulting in his featuring in Episode 513 (per Shark Tank Blog).

Baker's ribs one of most successful Shark Tank products

During his appearance on "Shark Tank," Baker assessed competing offers of support to eventually settle with Daymond John's proposal of $300,000 for 30% of Bubba's Q Boneless Ribs. John encouraged Baker to take online orders after the episode aired, reports Success, resulting in over $400,000 in sales in the following week.

In spite of this, Baker reveals on YouTube that life for Bubba's Q involved many "hurdles, roadblocks, and hiccups" because of John's desire to expand. Eventually, Bubba's Q teamed with a company to source the meat and pack the ribs, while John focused on marketing — leading to the boneless ribs being stocked in 3,000 grocery stores and a million-pound deal with Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants. Bubba's Q notes, however, that Baker's restaurant has closed.

Baker credits the mammoth deal with Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants as being the key to the success of his Boneless Baby Back Ribs. According to CNBC, sales of the ribs have achieved $16 million, and Daymond John believes the deal with Baker could be his most financially rewarding "Shark Tank" investment ever.