Austin-born barbecue chain launches growth plans with new owners

Austin-born barbecue chain launches growth plans with new owners

You know that old saying: Where there’s smoke, there’s… barbecue. This is Texas, after all. And a barbecue chain that started in the Austin area is cooking up some serious plans for growth thanks to a deal that’s adding a lot of fuel to the fire.

Smokey Mo’s Texas BBQ, the neighborhood barbecue brand launched in 2000 in Cedar Park by grill master Morris Melchor and his wife, Lisa, has just been purchased by Austin-based private equity firm Switchback Capital.

The purchase price was not shared, however, a representative from Smokey Mo’s company confirms that the acquisition will deliver a lot of growth for the brand, with Switchback planning to expand Smokey Mo’s from its current 16 locations to more corporate and franchised locations in the communities. of Texas, with new restaurants coming online later this year.

The barbecue chain currently has two locations in Austin; two in Cedar Park; one each in Georgetown, Leander, Liberty Hill, and Round Rock; four locations in San Antonio; one each in Boerne, New Braunfels and Spring Branch; and a location in Conroe.

Smokey Mo’s growth plan includes creating more franchise opportunities for new operators in the coming months, as well as rebranding Smokey Mo and a complete redesign of its store to add a more modern style.

Although specific new locations were not revealed, Craig Haley, president of Smokey Mo’s, says new restaurants are already in the works.

“Regarding corporate store growth, we will be opening several units this year and next in the Austin market. Leases have been signed and construction has begun. New store openings will begin in the third quarter of 2022,” Haley tells CultureMap. “We are very excited to grow the franchise side of the business as well. Over the past 12 months, we have been building best-in-class franchise processes and our current franchisees are eager to expand their portfolio of Smokey Mo’s stores.”

The acquisition comes shortly after Smokey Mo’s brought in Haley and other new leaders, with the goal of directing the expansion and rebranding. In October, it was announced that Haley would take over as president of Smokey Mo’s and Gini Quiroz would become vice president of human resources.

Haley and Quiroz previously worked together at K&N Management, which as of early 2021 owned and operated all four Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries & Shakes locations in the Austin area, as well as five Rudy’s Bar-BQ franchises. Haley and Quiroz participated in the growth of those brands before K&N sold them.

“As we enter this highly anticipated phase of Smokey Mo’s, we want to move quickly, but at the ‘right’ speed, to maintain our guests’ experience and make it the best it can be,” Haley told Nation’s Restaurant News in October. . . “Our customers love Smokey Mo’s for the quality of its ingredients, its affordable price and the fact that our meat is freshly smoked every day, and our vision is to take this quality to the next level to become the best neighborhood barbecue. in Texas”.

While that’s a bold goal for a state full of beloved barbecue joints, it’s not entirely implausible. Smokey Mo’s is known for its Texas-style barbecue favorites like ribs, sausage and its slow-cooked brisket, which is house-smoked for 10 to 14 hours daily and basted on a “proprietary” barbecue. “. rub, as well as their homemade-style sides.

It’s those Texas comfort food barbecue staples combined with its down-to-earth neighborhood charm that, in part, attracted Switchback, which adds Smokey Mo’s to its portfolio as the firm’s first formal investment. The equity firm primarily focuses on Central Texas businesses that are cash flow positive and offer growth prospects, making Smokey Mo’s a good fit for the company, according to a statement.

“There is clear promise for extensive and rapid expansion as well as modernization of our existing Smokey Mo locations. Providing our guests with the best possible experience is a high priority for us,” says Todd Caven, Principal at Switchback Capital. “Our team is excited to bring the best in-house smoked neighborhood barbecue in Texas to new markets in the near future.”

John Egan contributed to this story.

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