Hickory’s, the smokehouse and barbecue concept, is to launch a new look at its largest site to date, as it targets growth to a 12-strong estate by 2019.

Director John Welsh told MCA that the group would continue to focus on locations away from high streets and city centres with target areas as far north as York and south into the Midlands.

The group will open its sixth site – it second with Star Pubs & Bars – with a significant refurbishment of the Coach & Horses in Castle Bromwich, in the West Midlands. The site, which is due to open in February, will kickstart a brand refresh for the group and introduce a key new feature in an open firepit, manned by on-site pit masters. Welsh said the firepit would be a feature of new openings going forward and he hoped to retrofit them across the exiting estate.

Next year will also see the group re-open its site in Wall Heath, near Dudley, which was destroyed by fire earlier this year, with a re-launch planned for the summer. Welsh said he expected to open another site within 2017 and that going forward the group could cope with up to four new sites per year.

As well as the firepit, the 10,000 sq ft Castle Bromwich site will incorporate a cinema, neighbourhood bar and outdoor barbecue area.

Welsh told MCA: “We have been operating since 2009 and we felt it was time to move the brand on a little and to clarify what our core values are about.

“We really want to focus on authenticity. This year sent all our head chefs and GMs on a tour of southern states in the US to look at not just the tools they are using but to soak up that southern style of hospitality.

“Barbecue has become a huge trend since we first launched and has gone into the mainstream. The changes we have made, and the addition of the firepit will hopefully keep us ahead of the game for some time to come.”

The group currently operates in Chester; West Kirby, in the Wirral; Rhos-on-Sea in Conwy and Burton Green, Warwickshire.

Welsh described the geographic spread as “atypical” but stressed the group would continue to target areas that were not obvious choices.

He said: “We want buildings with heritage and we want areas where we can be a part of the community. We’re there for the family meal, a night out with friends or a business lunch.

“We don’t want to compete on high streets and city centres. We want locations where we can be part of the fabric of the area and be there for years to come.”

The group has made a number of key appointments over the past year, including Rachel Woodcock, who joined from the Azzurri Group, as HR director last month and Paula Brown, who was appointed as market director in June.

Welsh said the next role to be filled would be a head of property at some point towards the end of next year.

On its continuing partnership with Hickory’s, Star Pubs & Bars managing director, Lawson Mountstevens said: “The Coventry Hickory’s has been a great success. So, we’re delighted to be working with the team to create a second Hickory’s site, helping the dynamic group to realise their vision of opening 12 restaurants by 2019.”