National group of pubs and breweries acquires Chester-based restaurant chain

The Greene King pub chain has acquired Chester-based independent restaurant group Hickory’s Smokehouse for an undisclosed sum.

Greene King made his decision after the exit from London-based private equity firm Piper.

Piper took a £6m stake in Hickory’s in 2014.

The chain of American-style smokehouse and barbecue restaurants was founded in 2010 by Neil McDonnell and now operates from 17 locations across the North West, North Wales, Midlands, Yorkshire and Nottingham.

The team have been operating in Chester for over 22 years, with Mr McDonnell opening the Barlounge in 2000, followed by Upstairs At The Grill, a steakhouse restaurant, two years later.

The first Hickory’s restaurant was opened in 2010 in Chester on The Groves by the River Dee.

The acquisition supports ambitious plans to expand the Hickory’s brand across the UK.

Neil McDonnell said: “This investment from Greene King enables us to bring Hickory’s to many more customers and will provide our teams with fantastic opportunities for growth and development.

Hickory’s will continue to be led by the existing management team, led by Managing Director, John Welsh, and will remain based at its headquarters in Chester.

There is no change for Barlounge and Upstairs At The Grill which will be independently managed by Jason Bligh and his teams, led by Jack Brightwell and Richard Parr, as they currently are.

Nick Mackenzie, Managing Director of Greene King, said: “Hickory’s is an exceptional company that has established itself as one of the leading operators of BBQ smoker restaurants in the UK.

“This is a company that is committed to providing authentic hospitality and dining experience, and provides an offering that is valued by its customers, old and new.

“Hickory’s shares Greene King’s focus on providing quality food and beverages at the best value and, as far as our stable is concerned, it really complements our existing brands. We are confident that we can take Hickory’s to the next chapter in its history, and we look forward to working with John and the entire Hickory’s team as we focus on transforming it into a national restaurant brand.

Libby Gibson, Partner at Piper, said, “Hickory’s is a fantastic company that is uniquely positioned in the market, providing our customers with exceptional barbecue food and service. Its broad appeal to a wide range of customers has allowed us to grow the business significantly over the course of our partnership. We have truly enjoyed working with Neil, John and the team at Hickory’s and wish them and Greene King much success as they embark on their next stage of growth.

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