Austin-born barbecue chain launches growth plans with new owners

You know that old adage: where there’s smoke, there’s…a barbecue. This is Texas, after all. And a barbecue chain that got its start in the Austin area is making serious plans for growth thanks to a deal that adds a lot of fuel to the fire.

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

The purchase price was not shared, but a Smokey Mo’s company representative confirms the acquisition will drive brand growth, with Switchback planning to expand Smokey Mo’s from its current 16 locations to more corporate locations. and franchisees in Texas communities, with new restaurants going live starting later this year.

The BBQ chain currently has two locations in Austin; two at Cedar Park; one 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 completely revamping its store design to add a touch more modern.

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

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

The acquisition comes shortly after Smokey Mo’s brought in Haley and other new executives, aiming to spearhead expansion and rebranding. In October, it was announced that Haley would assume the role of 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 until early 2021 owned and operated all four Austin-area locations of Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries & Shakes, as well as five Rudy’s Bar-BQ franchises. Haley and Quiroz helped grow these 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 speed of ‘good,’ to maintain our customers’ experience and make it the best it can be,” Haley told Nation’s Restaurant. News in October. . “Our customers love Smokey Mo’s because of its quality ingredients, affordable prices, and the fact that our meat is freshly smoked every day, and our vision is to take that quality to the next level to become the best neighborhood barbecue in the world. Texas.”

While that’s a bold goal for a state filled with beloved barbecue joints, it’s not entirely implausible. Smokey Mo’s is known for its Texas-style barbecue dishes, such as ribs, sausages, and slow-cooked brisket – which is smoked in-house for 10-14 hours a day and basted in a “proprietary” barbecue. rub – as well as its home-style sides.

It’s these Texas barbecue staples, combined with its down-to-earth neighborhood charm that, in part, appealed to Switchback, which added Smokey Mo’s to its portfolio as the company’s first formal investment. The investment firm primarily focuses on Central Texas companies that have positive cash flow and offer growth prospects, making Smokey Mo’s a good fit for the company, according to a statement.

“There are clear promises for large and rapid expansion, as well as upgrading our existing Smokey Mo locations. Providing our clients with the best possible experience is a priority for us,” said Todd Caven, Principal of Switchback Capital. “Our team is excited to bring the best, home-smoked, neighborhood barbecue in Texas to new markets in the near future.”

John Egan contributed to this story.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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