New Menu, New Leadership Spark Sales, Employee Morale, Guest Satisfaction
Who is “some” you ask? Valued guests, team members from a stellar back-of-house machine to servers, bartenders, hostesses, chefs and cooks alike. Well, pretty much everyone, including the brand’s relatively new leader Mark Eason, who decided retirement wasn’t for him, yet Hickory Tavern was.
Want proof? Get ready for this and hear me now:
- Guest feedback is at an all-time high
- Repeat visits accelerated within the first month with the new menu rollout
- Team member morale … smiles from entry to exit, always
- New additions to its leadership team including:
- Regional Chef Steven Augustine
- Director of Training Stephanie Turcotte
The Hickory Tavern brand is revered in its markets. It is a sports-passionate gathering place, though more than a sports bar; it is a family-friendly restaurant, open and welcoming to all.
“I know the brand and I am a fan of the brand, always have been and now I am an even bigger one,” said Eason, an industry stalwart with a penchant for taking great brands and making them even better.
It didn’t take long for his influence and his shot in the arm to resonate. Top of his list: M E N U, with emphasis on improved procedures. Wings, for which Hickory Tavern is renowned, not only meet the table more quickly, guests say they taste better when they were world-class to begin with. Crispy Mozzarella, same improvement in speed of service, better reviews with guests saying it is unlike any Mozzarella experience they’ve ever had. Smashburgers are already a guest favorite. Fish and Chips, always a go-to are now amplified with Icelandic Cod vs. Cod and guests have noticed and love it. Take a look:
Eason and his entire team concluded that the little things were the big things. And some of the big things and old habits had to go.
Eason called in the calvary for industry-best insight, including Shaping America’s Plate, whose Registered Dietitian, Chef and CEO Pam Smith and Cliff Pleau, Culinary Innovator and Chef are both widely revered in the restaurant arena. Each dish has been meticulously crafted to create the most flavorful experience. No cutting corners, no shortcuts, no compromising great taste, making what has always been right even better.
Eason: “Simplification manifests into satisfaction for our team members and ultimately our guests with our collective eye and third-party expert input.”
The brand’s bar offerings have now been revisited with some assistance and expertise of Brittenn Cocktail Productions, LLC under the collaborative effort of Hickory Tavern’s Director of Marketing and Beverage Tammy Lucich and Britten’s CEO Stuart Melia. Melia is recognized as an insider expert and is a contributing part of this change under the desired direction of the Lucich and the brand.
“Guests will experience the perfect balance of simplicity and quality at our venues with handcrafted cocktails and an extensive beer selection featuring both local and national brands and stay tuned for seasonal surprises to come.” said Lucich. “Hickory Tavern is a celebrated, storied and proud brand. Our goal is to re-ignite our current guests and open the door for our soon-to-be new fans.”
The new menu and leadership changes recently caught the eye of the restaurant industry’s bible Nation’s Restaurant News and its top and tenured journalist Ron Ruggless, who fairly positioned the brand with its menu updates and intent to expand eloquently. Full article linked here:
In addition, one of North Carolina’s largest newspapers (first or second depending on the source) The Charlotte Observer paid attention too. It’s highly respected, national award-winning journalist Catherine Muccigrosso, who is inarguably Charlotte’s go-to for restaurant news in the region, took interest and wrote an in-depth analysis of the new menu upon being granted an interview with Eason. Based on her influence and devoted following in the region, she was granted the early exclusive (i.e., opportunity to break the story) for those independent of the revered industry trade source. Her story linked below:
Team members are collectively energized about the menu and renewed internal morale.
Tonya Hobbs, a server at Hickory Tavern’s Indian Land, SC location, has a background working at Italian restaurants and says the new Chicken Caprese trumps everything she has ever served elsewhere: “Our guests simply cannot believe how incredible our food is. Yes, we are known for wings and nachos yet when you really get into our new full menu, it will surprise you again, again and again.”
Seasoned bartender Matt Carr weighs in: “My favorite tips are smiles and how this (place) values people and its priorities go way beyond food. We are in the people business; we just happen to have the best menu in town.”
Of course, where the rubber meets the road is guest satisfaction. Regulars Sam Gross, Mike Christ, Don Stumph, Bob Bezuk and John Milford dropped in recently to see what all the fuss was about and upon sampling almost everything on the menu, the group was so impressed they belted out an A Capella version of Country Roads, circa John Denver. Take me home country roads, indeed.
“Hickory Tavern is home to us,” explained Stumph. “There is not a better restaurant on the planet. When you can get five middle-aged dudes to drop everything to have lunch together, it’s a journey back to the way it used to be, the way it’s supposed to be.”
The simplified and soon-to-be glorified menu simply escalates Hickory Tavern’s well-earned reputation as the area’s game day destination and more importantly an every day destination, which was the founders’ vision all along.
“I could not be more excited about the direction of our brand,” said Hickory Tavern co-founder Brad Smith. “We talked an exceptional leader back to work and he immediately addressed operations, his specialty. His passion is palpable and he inherited a gifted team. Hickory Tavern is family and his changes to the menu are resonating positively and team member morale is through the roof.”
Newcomer hostess Peggy Hill says she has never experienced a better employer and a company so dedicated to customer service: “It’s almost surreal. Yeah, our new menu will leave you shaking your head in a good way yet the way this company treats its people is how it all starts. It is the best company I’ve ever worked for, bar none, pardon the pun.”
Concluded Eason, “Retirement was just not for me. I cannot imagine sitting on my couch watching Bonanza when we have the opportunity to create a bonanza. Hold my wings, nachos and beer, this brand is shifting into high gear. Come join us!”
Other exciting changes are on tap, literally, with revisits of Happy Hour specials and discounts, which have always been brand staples. Of course, price and participation will vary by market and local jurisdiction. Remodels where it is necessary are on the horizon and local entertainment will be amplified so to speak.
Hickory Tavern eagerly invites its cherished friends and neighbors, both familiar faces and new acquaintances, to embark on a culinary adventure with the coveted brand. Ends Lucich: “Whether you haven’t visited in a while or are a first-timer, now is the time to come on in and give us a try. We will exceed your expectations and you will return.”
About Hickory Tavern
Hickory Tavern, famous for being named one of the Best Sports Bar in North America by ESPN (who would know, right?), remains the ideal neighborhood gathering place. It is the go-to spot for everyone (a come as you appeal to all) for great food AND A NEW MENU, cold drinks and real community. What started as a small neighborhood spot has grown to become a beloved meeting place for neighborhoods across the Carolinas and beyond. Hickory Tavern, also recognized by The Bleacher Report as the best local bar in the NFL city of its current headquarters of Charlotte, though proud of its heritage which started in Hickory, North Carolina years ago. For more information, please visit thehickorytavern.com.
Hickory Tavern proudly supports The Independence Fund, where $1 from every Freedom Burger goes to Veterans associated with The Independence Fund. To learn more about The Independence Fund, visit https://independencefund.org/.
derekPR for Hickory Tavern