During the wake of the pandemic, over 41% of black-owned businesses closed. Other establishments — primarily those within the hospitality and retail sectors — felt the heat rising from the crisis, as COVID19 continued to spread, with no signs of normalcy returning soon. For Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que brothers Brent and Juan Reaves, the pressure was on. As sales decreased and fears increased, they kept the faith in their family-owned business, stayed true to the vision of what the late “Smokey John” wanted, and believed that everything was going to work out in their favor.
In a routine appearance on Facebook, Smokey John’s was discovered and scouted for the new Discovery Plus series Restaurant Recovery, hosted by Raising Canes owner Todd Graves. The network fell in love with the Smokey John’s history, the grit and determination of the Reaves brothers and the potential of the restaurant, and decided to cast them for the show.
Originally airing on April 15th, Restaurant Recovery follows Graves as he travels around the country helping family-owned restaurants that are suffering due to the pandemic. In a 48-hour turn around, Graves and his team helps to flip the restaurant around, along with solutions and assistance that make sure they survive and thrive throughout the midst of the global crisis.
We caught up with Brent Reaves, Co-Owner of Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que to get a glimpse into the life-changing experience.
Inspire N Style Magazine: We’re completely aware of the devastation that the pandemic had on the hospitality industry. What was life like for Smokey John’s before the camera crew showed up?
Brent Reaves: “The first month of COVID, we lost 55% of business. We lost $45,000 in catering sales alone for the month. We had huge events with [major corporations] and all of these other companies that were booked. Every single person cancelled. In May, we normally do 98 events — [in May 2020], we did two. We took a huge hit.
The blessing during that time, was that the Dallas Mavericks got behind us and started doing frontline catering for the workers in the hospitals, and that got us some publicity, and people started coming through the door. That…saved us.”
So spill the tea. On the show, Raising Canes owner Todd Graves shows up, and he and his team transform the restaurant (along with other enhancements) in what they say was 48 hours. Is this true or just for TV?
“The transformation of the restaurant was actually less than a 48-hour turnaround. It was the scariest moment. We had no clue what they were going to do when we gave them the keys.”
Wow. And so was that a real “first reaction” for you guys when you saw what they had done to the restaurant?
“They bring you in a van…it’s not only blacked out, but they’ve got cardboard or wood on the windows so you can’t even see anything, not even the side of the van. When we came out of the van, and they turned us around, I was like, “Oh my God!”
So what were your initial thoughts on the new redesign and branding of Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que?
“[Juan and I] had plans to do all of this. This was what we were going to do for the next location. I didn’t tell Todd Graves any of that. All of the different elements that they added to the store, [Juan and I] actually talked about [before Restaurant Recovery]. I never told them these things. So when I walked in, I was like, ‘I never told ya’ll any of this.’ They just knew.
We’re not going to give anymore away because we want readers to tune in and stream this episode, but, what’s in the future for Smokey John’s now that you have a new look, a new feel and new branding? I see you guys posting a lot on Youtube. Are you aiming for more TV?
“Yes! We’ve started a new ‘What’s for Lunch’ series on the Smokey John’s BBQ Youtube Channel. It’s us shooting our own stuff with our video team. We’ve done nine episodes and we launch a new one every week. Our hope is to create a great following for that, and hopefully we can get a local station to pick it up as a TV segment to highlight other businesses.”
Is there anything else you want the Inspire N Style family to know?
“We took a huge hit during COVID, but we’re going to fight because of our Dad’s legacy. We’re going to keep it going. We’re not trying to just make it…we’re not just trying to survive, we really want to thrive.”
Watch the entire Smokey John’s episode by streaming Episode 2 of Restaurant Recovery on Discovery Plus. For more on Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que and the Reaves brothers, visit SmokeyJohns.com. To place an order in-person, head to 1820 West Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, TX 75235. Follow Smokey John’s on Instagram @smokeyjohnsbbq.