An Interview with Smokey Bones COO

How specific long-term investments are making today’s operations more predictable & profitable

Smokey Bones is a full-service barbeque restaurant with over 60 locations across the globe. Many of which have remained operational throughout the pandemic. What has been their recipe for success? Adopting a technology-first culture. 

We spoke to Hal Lawlor, COO of Smokey Bones, to discuss their strategy behind the ghost kitchen partnership with Kitchen United and their focus on enhancing the delivery experience in a recent webinar ‘Smokey Bones Anytime, Anywhere’. And for the brand, ‘anytime, anywhere’ means launching ghost kitchen operations where consumers can access their infamous Wing Experience from the comfort of their homes. 

Here’s a preview from the Q&A session of the Smokey Bones webinar:


Ghost Kitchen Operations

What makes Kitchen United a good partner?

Kitchen United has been tremendous in providing direction, support and even sales generation; they are as open as they can be regarding sales forecasting, operational challenges and even staffing recommendations for the ghost kitchen.

How do you allocate cost in a shared kitchen?

The simplicity of it actually enabled us to launch a few weeks early. When you think about your traditional overhead costs with a restaurant, they don’t translate to ghost kitchen operations. Outside of rent you’ll have a few transactional fees to take care of, then you’re officially set up. We literally opened up the first ghost kitchen operation in 10 days.

What markets are you looking to expand your ghost kitchen operations into, and why?

We’re looking at major metro areas with a high concentration of consumer traffic and demand, where you wouldn’t put a standard restaurant in. We have considered utilizing a ghost kitchen platform to gain insight into markets we don’t currently operate in and gauge brand acceptance with a much lower capital outlay than building a full scale restaurant. For example, we don’t have any restaurants in Texas. If we wanted to drop a test kitchen in Houston to test the market and brand sentiment, that would be our first step into identifying if the demand warranted a brick and mortar.

As you’re testing new markets, what are your KPIs for determining success before going through a massive roll out?

A ghost kitchen really has the same KPIs as an existing full service restaurant. Brand awareness, guest feedback, cost management & margins, etc. This first partnership is a key step in expanding to other markets. 

Hal also shares the changing role of his hourly team members as well as other key operational changes the chain has undergone in order to remain profitable during this time. Continue the session by watching the Smokey Bones webinar on-demand!

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