Hickory's Gresty Green Outside Sunshine

Greene King has acquired Hickory’s, the BBQ smokehouse restaurant group, with an ambition to grow it into a national dining brand.

The pub company said the investment for an undisclosed sum underpins its strategy of growing its reach through “compelling brands and unlocking value by making the most of each of its sites”.

Greene King described Hickory’s as “highly complementary” to its current portfolio of brands and geographical reach.

As part of this transaction, it plans to leverage its scale and accelerate the national roll out of the Hickory’s brand beyond its North West heartland, with “significant growth” over time by optimising Greene King assets.

Hickory’s is a well-invested business with attractive unit economics and the potential for “considerable future growth”, according to the announcement.

As part of Greene King, the business will continue to be run by its experienced and proven management team, including founder Neil McDonnell and spearheaded by managing director John Welsh.

Founded in 2010, Hickory’s has grown into a leading BBQ smokehouse restaurant operator in the UK, with 17 restaurants across the Midlands and North West.

The Piper-backed family friendly brand has a strong focus on food quality with meats slow cooked for up to 12 hours on smokers specially imported from Memphis.

Customers are offered unique dining experiences, such as chef’s tables, dining verandas, cinemas and children’s play areas.

Hickory’s appointed BDO to assess its investment options at the tail end of 2021, with John Welsh telling MCA the business was looking for a new backer with “the firepower to help us grow”.

In Febuary he said there was scope to do “many many more”. The business has benefited from its positioning in suburbs over the more turbulent high street. 

Greene King said Hickory’s had performed “exceptionally well” since reopening following the pandemic, with trading underpinned by an offer centred around authenticity, experience and great value.

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive at Greene King, said: “Hickory’s is an outstanding business which has established itself as one of the UK’s leading BBQ smokehouse restaurant operators. This is a business which has a commitment to authentic hospitality and dining experience, and which has an offer loved by its customers, old and new.

“Hickory’s shares Greene King’s focus on providing quality food and drink at the best possible value and when looking at our stable, it really complements our existing brands. We are confident that we can take Hickory’s to the next chapter in its history, and we look forward to working with John and the whole of the Hickory’s team as we focus on building it into a national dining brand.”

Neil McDonnell, founder of Hickory’s, said: “We are delighted to have this investment from Greene King which enables us to bring the Hickory’s smokehouse offer to many more guests and locations. This will provide our teams with fantastic opportunities for growth and development.”

Libby Gibson, partner at Piper, added: “Hickory’s is a fantastic business that has a unique position in the market offering its guests brilliant BBQ food and service. It’s broad appeal to a wide range of guests has meant we have been able to grow the business significantly during our partnership. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Neil, John and the team at Hickory’s and wish them and Greene King every success as they embark on their next stage of growth.”