published Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Smokey Bones hungry to grow again after recession diet

Chris Artinian, CEO of Smokey Bones restaurants,talks about the restaurant chain's expansion plans.
Chris Artinian, CEO of Smokey Bones restaurants,talks about the restaurant chain's expansion plans.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.

UPCOMING EVENTS

• End of Summer Bash - August 17 - Outdoor party with a Budweiser truck, Jim Beam girls and Three Olives.

• Smokey Bones Kickoff Tailgate Party - August 25, 1 to 4 p.m. - Special offers, drinks and fun to mark the start of the NFL season.

Source: Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill

Chris Artinian is ready to grow.

The Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill CEO is planning to open five new restaurants in the next year and another six or eight the year after that.

The Orlando, Fla.-based company already operates 65 locations across the Southeast and Midwest, but put new restaurants on hold for a half-dozen years when the recession hit, Artinian said at the Chattanooga Smokey Bones location on Gunbarrel Road.

"The business has grown consistently over the last few years -- not only in sales but in profitability --so we're comfortable enough to say we're ready to grow again," he said.

The company plans to spend about $2 million per location and hire about 65 employees at each new restaurant. Artinian said the company is close to signing the leases for some of the new restaurants, although none of the new units are in the Chattanooga area.

"There's certainly opportunity in Chattanooga," he said. "There's nothing immediate in Chattanooga, but we're happy to be here and we've been successful here, so there's no reason we wouldn't want to be here."

The company is eventually looking to add hundreds of new restaurants, Artinian said, starting in areas where the company already has restaurants and infrastructure in place. He was hired just over a year ago as CEO.

"I was hired to bring it to the next level and grow the brand," he said. The company recently revamped its menu and is focusing on late-night diners. The Chattanooga location, like most Smokey Bones restaurants, serves the restaurant's full menu through 2 a.m.

"That's been an incredible growth part of of our business over the last two years, especially here in Chattanooga," Artinian said.

Smokey Bones' food roots are in barbecue, although the restaurant has expanded into burgers, salads, fish and grill items. Each restaurant smokes their barbecue in-house, Artinian said.

Chattanooga bar manager Chris Campo said he thinks the company's push to expand could turn Smokey Bones into a nationally recognized chain.

"I think Smokey Bones could be everywhere, just like Chili's or Applebees," he said. "I think it'd be a hit. Our food is up to par or better."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at sbradbury@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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