Smokey Bones reopens restaurants, taps ghost kitchens for growth

Furloughed employees to return, additional staff to be hired

Casual-dining chain Smokey Bones has reopened all 61 restaurants and will be bringing employees back from furloughs, as well as hiring additional team members. The chain is in growth mode, suggests James O’Reilly, Smokey Bones chief executive. In June, the chain launched a virtual restaurant brand, The Wing Experience, powered by a ghost kitchen in Chicago. The partnership with Kitchen United created the location, which also fulfills orders from the Smokey Bones menu.

“During the shutdown of dining rooms, we intensified our focus on curbside pickup and delivery, and launched pop-up drive-thrus, all of which propelled our off-premise business to the highest levels we have ever experienced, noted O’Reilly. “We intend to continue emphasizing off premise service options as our guests also return to our dining rooms.”

Executives said they will follow CDC guidelines and take enhanced precautions on safety and sanitation. The ghost-kitchen-powered Smokey Bones Chicago menu provides a choice of popular menu items, while The Wing Experience targets avid wing-lovers. A total of 14 different flavors, including three new sauces exclusive to the virtual brand and not available at Smokey Bones, will appeal to wing fans: Maple Bacon, Peach Bourbon and a very hot version, The Experienced Wings.

“During the furlough, we were very transparent; our executives communicated with employees directly through text chats and weekly video town hall meetings.” said Rachael Kelly Marcus, chief human resources officer. “Our goal was to provide them with resources and ensure they were receiving the support they needed— everything from filling out unemployment forms to rent negotiations.”

Smokey Bones is reopening all restaurants with safety and sanitation in mind. The casual-dining chain reopened all 61 restaurants and continues to serve guests from its ghost kitchen. Photo by Smokey Bones.
Smokey Bones is reopening all restaurants with safety and sanitation in mind. Photo by Smokey Bones.

“Guest and employee safety remain our number one priority, and we are excited to be welcoming guests back to our dining rooms for award-winning barbeque and our legendary service”, said Hal Lawlor, Smokey Bones chief operating officer. “Smokey Bones will be ready to make changes as dictated by state requirements, but we wanted to celebrate the good news that our team has managed this extremely difficult situation and have reopened all of our restaurants as of July 1, 2020, three months after the crisis began.”


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