Erik Bryan, Owner of newACunit Profile

James O'Reilly
CEO of Smokey Bones

Erik Bryan, Owner of newACunit Certificate

"Get edgy by embracing innovation"

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill has 62 locations across 16 states. With the entrusted leadership of James O'Reilly, CEO, Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill provides brunch, lunch, and supper and has more than 40 bourbons and whiskeys, 40+ beers, and hand-crafted cocktails. Slow-smoked and fire-grilled classics are available for dine-in, pick-up, online ordering, and catering.

James O'Reilly is an award-winning, 26-year restaurant veteran. His leadership has been a role model for his teams throughout his career. Smokey Bones' ability to change with the times, willingness to try new things, and desire to be the best in casual dining are what make Smokey Bones successful and innovative.

PASSION IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A JOB & A CAREER! With over 200 leadership positions across our restaurants, we provide a pathway for thousands of Team Members who work in our restaurants to advance from entry-level roles into Management Careers. Hiring cooks, servers, bartenders, greeters, takeout.

James' company trains aspiring CEOs. He highlights flexible work, perks, salary, and value coaching. Some GMs started enterprises, James added. Our general managers are multimillionaire entrepreneurs. Smokey Bones is "human-centered," and people are the heart of our firm. Uniqueness, talent, and inventiveness are admirable. As leaders, we analyze how our decisions are made and implemented. I made five dog tags about Smokey Bones' culture. James recommends driving for results, acting with integrity, being yourself, being resilient, and being creative. People who live by the company's ideals get medals. James adds that in a team-focused environment, criticism is not a personal critique and through that, personal and business growth is possible. I use criticism to advance myself and Smokey Bones when I hear it.

In recent years, we've built off-site services and this growing area was originally planned before COVID. Curbside and delivery are highlights, as are virtual brands The Wing Experience and The Burger Experience with their own e-commerce sites, but the drive-thru was one of the most exciting and significant steps. Smokey Bones has the first digital drive-thru in the U.S.

"Meat is What We Do" is our competitive advantage. Smokey Bones offers the most meat and preparation methods. These benefits make Smokey Bones a protein candy store for meat lovers. In addition to our primary brand strategy, we're sensitive to client segments and their needs. We show we understand customers' needs, especially in this economy, by giving value, like our $9.99 pulled pork with wings, which features 1 pulled pork sandwich, 8 boneless wings, and 1 regular fry, or 2 pulled pork sandwiches, 8 boneless wings, and 2 regular fries. We've built a strong brand position and a distinct point of view for diverse guest occasions. We know who we serve and what we give, so we cater to carnivores.

Our culture is another source of competitive advantage, and it drives staffing and retention. Our executive staff meets regularly with field management to ensure transparency. Our chief people officer facilitated a cultural revival based on human-centric leadership. Due to our focus on inclusion, Smokey Bones has been a "Great Place to Work" for two years, adds James.

The pandemic drove several recent modifications. COVID restrictions made it difficult for customers to eat in our restaurants, so we had to keep them happy. "Anytime, anywhere" enabled guests to enjoy Smokey Bones on their terms. We enhanced delivery and curbside pickup and made Drive-thru available. Our real estate experts examine the bowling green and KY Smokey Bones' drive-thru when researching new sites. Also, To-go lobbies are coming to eateries. Our new drive-thru changes the casual dining category. We're exploring ways to offer drive-thru service at new locations. Smokey Bones is our first drive-thru that has computerized ordering boards, digital order confirmation, high-quality audio, a drive-up window for quick menu collection, and curbside parking. Guests can order Smokey Bones and our virtual brands at the drive-thru.

James says technology improves customer service. Table management has wisely enhanced crew morale. It improves customer service and interaction. As Gen Z enters the workforce and customer base, businesses must adapt. Smokey Bones aims to invest in technology for restaurants and delivery. Technology determines Smokey Bones' future. Our team is piloting OneDine in key cities to meet customer needs and lead informal dining. These technologies increase customer service. We want to keep up with technology to better serve our clients.

Smokey Bones has always prioritized guests. As stated by James, our brand delivers delicious meals, crave-worthy beverages, and memorable encounters with friends and family. We have smokers in each of our restaurants and smoke all our meats in-house. We want to ensure that each guest's dining experience or off-premise service is of the highest quality and meets their expectations and we're committed to the brand's future.


Smokey Bones


James O'Reilly
CEO of Smokey Bones


We're meat people. You love it. We love it. For us, meat is life. We love exploring new ways of preparation along with time-honored classics, and presenting all to you. From the grill. From the pit. From the bottom of our hearts to the top of your smiles. We embrace your inner carnivore and proudly feed it. We do one thing and we do it really, really well. MEAT IS WHAT WE DO.

Inspiring Leaders Magazine 2022