The history of Hickory River Smokehouse actually began with a Hawaiian romance!
While stationed in Hawaii as a young Marine, founder Brad Bowman first met his future
wife, Krista, whose parents lived in Texas. When they visited her family, Brad was
introduced to authentic Texas barbecue for the first time, and yet another romance was
born—you might say it was love at first bite.
Hickory River Smokehouse prides itself on their founding and success as a family
partnership and full-family effort, which is reflected in their dedication to being a truly
family-friendly restaurant. So in the spirit of the restaurants’ origins and to honor what it
takes to run an exceptional franchise, we asked Maria Davis, co-owner with her
husband Dan of the Tipp City, Ohio location, a few questions. Check out her answers
below for insight into what it’s really like to own and operate a Hickory River
HRS: I see that you and your husband purchased Hickory River Smokehouse in Tipp
City in 2011. Can you tell me more about that? What led you to consider the franchising
life? What was it about Hickory River in particular that drew you to it?
Maria: Yes, we purchased Hickory River Smokehouse in 2011. Something that really
drew us in was the success the other Hickory River locations were having, and the
unique fast-casual barbecue concept. At Hickory River, the meats are sliced to order,
and side dishes are made right in front of the customer as you go down the line. This
concept allows customers a made-hot-and-fresh dining experience, without the wait. It's
the best of both worlds— it's not fast food, but you don't have to sit at a table and wait
for your food either. We like to say "it's fast-casual done right!"
HRS: You have a young family. How does owning a small business and franchising suit
your lifestyle and family?
Maria: We have a young family, with four children, ages 9 to 17. The best part about
owning a Hickory River Smokehouse restaurant franchise is the flexibility it gives us to
live our lives. We can now easily get to doctor's appointments, go to our kids' sporting
events, and other school functions. Owning a small business in our home community
also gives us a sense of giving back by offering employment opportunities, becoming
involved in local organizations and being active in area events. Owning a Hickory River
franchise has allowed our family to live, work, go to school, and give back to the
community we love so much.
HRS: What are your kids' favorite things about owning a restaurant franchise? Do they
have an opinion?
Maria: Our oldest son would like to manage and possibly own a Hickory River
Smokehouse restaurant franchise one day. He is interested in business and restaurant
management, and also in culinary arts. All of our children have their favorite food items
at Hickory River, including the loaded pulled pork nachos, turkey garden salad, fried
okra, baby back ribs, and waffle fries with a side of queso!
HRS: The history of Hickory River on the website mentions that you regularly compete
and win at Ohio State Fair BBQ competitions. Could you share a bit more about that?
Maria: It has been a great honor to be recognized with so many awards for our
barbecue and we’re very proud of it. We have won the The People’s Choice Award in
the Ohio State Fair Pork Rib-Off Competition three out of four years, which is
particularly meaningful since it is voted on by the actual regular fair-goers who chose us
as their favorite of competitors from all over the state. We have also won Grand
Champion for our pulled pork five times, Grand Champion for our BBQ sauce twice, and
Grand Champion for our ribs once. Additionally we have won Reserve Champion once
each for both our pulled pork and ribs.
HRS: What is your family's favorite thing about Texas-style BBQ?
Maria: We are proud that every cut of meat is smoked in our on-site smokehouse, using
real hickory wood. Not a lot of barbecue restaurants are using tried and true methods
these days. We feel good knowing our customers are getting authentic smokehouse
barbecue when they dine with us.
HRS: Would you say franchising is a family affair in your experience?
Maria: Absolutely, franchising can definitely be a family affair. All you need are
dedicated, hard-working individuals that will put in the time and effort to make a
franchise successful. The sky is the limit on how successful your Hickory River
Smokehouse franchise can be. We are so glad we took a chance, bought a franchise,
and now we are seeing the pay-off every day through sales, salaries, and the overall
flexibility and other benefits that come with owning a small business.
HRS: What are the biggest challenges you face as a franchisee?
Maria: Right now, the biggest challenges facing franchisees are the costs of building materials and food and supply costs. We will help guide franchisees through the entire process, from choosing the right location, to helping with the remodel or new build, as well as guiding franchisees through any challenges that may arise. Each franchise owner considers the other owners' friends and family— and we all have the same goal of making every Hickory River owner successful and independent.
HRS: What type of people would you recommend to explore the idea of franchising?
Who is it the best fit for?
Maria: We are looking for individuals that are natural leaders and go-getter's who are
not afraid to work hard. The ideal franchisee is someone who is dedicated and is willing
to learn how to manage food ordering and preparation, money, expenses, and
personnel. We are here to help every step of the way! The franchise owners want to see
every franchisee succeed, and we will help you get there.
HRS: Feel free to share anything else you'd like to say to encourage people who are
considering franchising with Hickory River Smokehouse!
Maria: It sounds scary to jump right in and inquire about opening a Hickory River
Smokehouse franchise. But we really are here to help you along the way, to answer any
and all questions you might have, and to walk you through the entire process.
So there you have it folks, straight from an actual franchisee! Franchising with Hickory River Smokehouse truly is a family affair. If you’re interested in the focus on values and flexibility owning a franchise offers, as well as the sky-high potential for business success, contact Hickory River Smokehouse for a franchise kit. Hickory River locations include Ohio and Illinois, with Southern Ohio being wide open for growth. Individuals interested in franchise expansion into Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan are also strongly encouraged to reach out to us. After all, we can’t all be Texans, but our delicious, authentic Texas-style barbecue is way too good not to be shared!