Alongside a structural overhaul, Smokey Mo’s will introduce new technologies throughout the system. There will be no digital kiosks or AI accepting call orders, but there will be systematic upgrades. Most will come to the back of house, where a new POS system and an updated online ordering platform will be set up. There is also talk of creating a loyalty program, but this is still in its infancy.
“We’ve certainly looked at kiosks, and that might be an option for the future, but a big part of what Smokey Mo offers is friendly service,” says Haley. “I think it’s important to have someone to talk to and who understands the grill because we get a lot of questions from customers when they order. If you’re ordering a burger or a chicken sandwich, you don’t have to ask a lot of questions, but grilling takes a little more back and forth. People like their barbecue how they like it.”
Technical improvements will also aim to improve training procedures. Haley says using video modules will help with the onboarding process. For example, if someone needs a reminder on how to cut brisket, there’s a video that provides a quick and thorough refresher on how Smokey Mo’s wants things done.
Virtual training ensures that each session uses the same material. Haley says the space requirements of endless stacks of papers and folders can create confusion and use old training methods.
“It makes it much easier to update your training materials,” he says. “That’s really important for a company like us where we’re really focused on improvement.”
Expanding a brand is never easy, especially at a time when supply chain disruptions have pushed back lead times for essential kitchen and restaurant equipment. Therefore, Haley is content with a slow and steady tempo. The plan in place allows for delays and gives the manager confidence in the brand’s stated development goal.
The company believes in the long-term approach, including partnering with the right franchisees. Smokey Mo’s is looking for operators with a minimum of three to five years of senior management experience in the industry. If a group of investors is interested in partnering with the brand, at least one of the members must have the required experience.
The restaurant wants to sign agreements for three or more locations, as opposed to single stores. Most importantly, according to Haley, franchisees must have a passion for Texas barbecue and customer service.
“It’s extremely important for us,” he says. “The product and the people. Caring for guests and understanding what friendly service is, plays a big part in our selection process. We treat every new partnership as a marriage. When you marry someone you want to make sure they share the same values and are compatible. We don’t want to end up in a divorce.”
With the rebranding in the works and new stores opening later this year, Haley feels good about Smokey Mo’s development.
“Our vision is to be the best neighborhood barbecue in Texas,” he says. “We are incredibly happy about it.”