A food distribution company has clinched a £3.5 million a year deal to supply fast-growing US-style smokehouse and BBQ restaurant group Hickory’s with a sizzling selection of beef, pork and chicken.

The announcement was made at Hickory’s newest restaurant, right on the River Severn at Shrewsbury and comes hot on the heels of news that Harlech Foodservice, based in Criccieth, in Gwynedd, and Chester, had created 16 new jobs after achieving record sales over the summer.

Hickory’s, who have 11 restaurants including at Shrewsbury where they opened last year and where they employ 70 staff, have successfully brought the taste of America’s Deep South to diners from Southport to Worcester.

Harlech Foodservice are now helping them do that by delivering the meat for their burgers, pork ribs, chicken wings, butt steaks and brisket, including over a ton of beef every month

Since lockdown ended in July, 1,000 diners have celebrated Saturdays at each of the Hickory’s restaurants

The privately-owned Chester-based company opened their first restaurant alongside the River Dee in Chester in 2010 and now employ 871 staff including 363 trained BBQ chefs and pitmasters.

Since lockdown ended in July, Hickory’s have welcomed 1,000’s of guests across their restaurants and, appropriately, they started to re-open on the Fourth of July, American Independence Day and the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out also gave them a boost.

So has the style of their premises, according to Executive Chef Director Rob Bacon, who helped set up Hickory’s in Chester 10 years ago.

He said: “Guests have welcomed the reopening of the restaurants and being able to enjoy their BBQ favourites and smokehouse classics again.

“We have been looking for a supplier to help us grow the business and Harlech Foodservices have been on our radar for a while and they fitted the bill.  We need the right quality of meat and Harlech can supply that.

“They can also take orders late at night and it will be here at our restaurant, whether it’s in Southport, Worcester or Rhos on Sea, at 10am the next morning with the right product at the right quality.

“We cook our beef brisket for 16 hours in the smoker so the beef needs to be grain-fed rather than grass-fed because the meat will stay moist and tender rather than drying out.”

Mark Lawton, Commercial Director of Harlech Foodservice, said: “Hickory’s are a fantastic brand and they’ve done a lot of work to get their offer just right and it’s paying off for them.

“Part of that is making sure they have the right meat when and where they need it and we have the capacity to guarantee that.  We’ve got the size and scale to deliver six days a week and cater for late ordering using our online ordering and app.

“They have struck a chord with their customers and that’s shown by their success but they don’t compromise on quality and their approach to doing what they do is very thorough and professional.”

Rob Bacon, a trained chef who spent years in high end restaurants in North Wales and the North West including St David’s Park Hotel in Ewloe, added: “We have done a lot of research and made many visits to America and worked alongside their top pitmasters, the best BBQ chefs in the world.

“They’ve been really helpful, especially when they realised we were from the UK, and given us plenty of advice on how to make this a really authentic experience for our guests.

“We cook just about everything on the premises from the coleslaw to our now signature BBQ Sauce and we have our own secret Magic Dust we have developed to sprinkle on our meat.

“I know when we opened our first restaurant 10 years ago we were expecting about 70 or 80 covers but we had over 300 and had to shut the restaurant early because we’d run out of food and the same thing happened the next night.

“This year we actually locked down before the Government announcement but we kept our team busy and we maintained our involvement with the local community which is very important to us.

“We’ve now raised over £190,000 for Cash for Kids with £65,000 coming from our appeal during lockdown and we provided over 3,200 meals for vulnerable families from our restaurants in Chester, Wall Heath in Dudley and Poynton, near Stockport, which kept our teams involved during lockdown.

“But if you had wanted to design a restaurant best suited to the current crisis then ours pretty much fit the bill – they are large and spacious and they all have outdoor areas.

“So a lot has gone for us but we have also taken the anti-Covid measures very seriously, we have closed the kids’ cinemas we have in every restaurant and observed all the regulations and recommendations to keep our team and guests safe.”

For more on Hickory’s go to https://hickorys.co.uk/ and for more on Harlech Foodservice go to https://www.harlech.co.uk/