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James O'Reilly, CEO of Smokey Bones, sits down with Lisa Jennings to talk about the future of dine-in at restaurants as states begin to lift social distancing measures.

Smokey Bones CEO James O’Reilly on reopening dine-in restaurants in Georgia, other states

The 61-unit full-service barbecue chain is planning to open restaurants in Georgia the week of April 27 and in eight other states by May 2

With a governor giving the okay for restaurants to reopen their dining rooms in a limited capacity on April 27, the full-service barbecue concept Smokey Bones is gearing up to get back to business within the week.

Though many restaurant companies are holding off in Georgia, CEO James O’Reilly said he wants to help get the economy restarted and his company is ready for a gradual return to some dine-in business — at least they will be a day or two after the shutdown is officially lifted to allow workers to be trained to follow state and federal health guidelines.

Smokey Bones has three locations in Georgia. By May 2, the 61-unit chain expects to be back in full-service operation in nine states, including Tennessee and South Carolina.

Because dine-in capacity will be strictly limited, O’Reilly said not all workers will be back on the job, and some will choose not to come back just yet, he said.

During the shutdown, Smokey Bones restaurants have been offering delivery and takeout along with a modified curbside service they call a drive-thru popup. That will continue, including the offer of groceries and cook-at-home meal kits.

And Smokey Bones is leaning into delivery. Even before the shutdown, Smokey Bones had begun investing heavily in building its off-premise business, with virtual brands (wings and burgers) operating out of existing restaurant kitchens, as well as the barbecue menu being delivered from ghost kitchens in markets where there are no restaurants.

Here’s what O’Reilly had to say about Smokey Bones’ plans to reopen.

This is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout


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