Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill is in the midst of changes that its chief executive hopes will spur growth for the Orlando-based brand.
“Let’s face it,” said Christopher J. Artinian, Smokey Bones’ chief executive, “one of the reasons that I was brought into Smokey Bones was to create a platform for growth.”
Before joining Smokey Bones in June, Artinian had served as president and chief executive of Morton’s Restaurant Group Inc.
Smokey Bones, he said, hasn’t opened any new restaurants during the past couple of years. In 2013, the company hopes to open four to six new restaurants. That’s due, in part, to some core changes to the menu, events marketing, and restaurant design, he said.
The company also added a new senior vice president of marketing, Roger Drake, in October. Drake was most recently senior vice president of marketing, corporate communications and sales for Morton’s. In his new role, Drake in charge of making sure Smokey Bones’ branding evolves with the changes.
“The first thing that we did was go through every single menu item and saw what we could do to improve it, be it a flavor enhancement or a presentation enhancement,” Artinian said. As an example, he said, the mac and cheese at the restaurant is essentially the same, except for a few small tweaks, including adding a golden brown Asiago cheese topping.
Smokey Bones’ signature brisket is also slightly different these days. Now it’s prepared in a smoker in-house, he said, giving it a unique quality.
Smokey Bones’ revamped menu also “calls out” items with fewer than 400 calories, Artinian said. “We’re identifying what we already have and making it more marketable,” he noted.
Although Smokey Bones doesn’t share specific sales information, same-store sales have increased in 2012.
On top of the menu upgrades, Artinian said Smokey Bones plans to add large patios at about a half dozen of its restaurants. On Nov. 9, the Waterford Lakes, Fla., restaurant will get a new patio. “We realize this is a great opportunity for guests to dine outside,” Artinian said. “Great for cocktail parties or just to enjoy the weather.”
The company is also trying to set up its own events, Drake said, such as educational beer pairings. It’s all about creating a destination for guests to enjoy, he noted. “We look to use edutainment as a way to create some buzz with our guests and also to become members of the community,” he said, adding that the 2013 events schedule should be finalized by the end of 2012.
Smokey Bones is owned by Sun Capital and has 66 restaurants in 17 states.