MYRTLE BEACH — Barbecue lovers soon will have even more places to pig out in Myrtle Beach.
Three new barbecue restaurants plan to open in the city limits in the coming weeks, joining a national trend of growth in that segment of restaurants.
Simply Southern Smokehouse on Mr. Joe White Avenue and Rockabilly BBQ on North Kings Highway are slated to open next week. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit aims to open on Oleander Drive in the former Quiznos spot near Salsarita’s in mid-July.
All three owners said they thought the Myrtle Beach area was lacking barbecue restaurants and aim to fill a void in the market. It just so happened that they all thought it around the same time.
“I think everyone else was thinking what we thought,” said Ted Hammerman, owner of Rockabilly BBQ. “We thought there was so little barbecue in town.”
Hammerman also owns Mr. Fish Seafood Restaurant, which moved from the 3400 block of North Kings Highway north to the 6400 block, and said he was stuck in the lease at the former location until the beginning of next year and decided to put another restaurant in that spot instead of paying rent on an empty store front.
He said his daughter, who went to Johnson & Wales University for culinary school, suggested opening a barbecue restaurant.
“She said, ‘Let’s do good barbecue. Let’s do different barbecue,’ ” Hammerman said. “We already owned a commercial smoker because we had smoked fish in the past.”
The birth of her granddaughter is what brought Simply Southern owner Tammy Floyd to Myrtle Beach from the Lake City area.
“My son is here and he just had my only grandchild here and when the business became available I jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “But I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t think it was a good move and a good place to have a business.”
Simply Southern is the only buffet out of the new crop of restaurants.
“I worked at a place that was a buffet and it did very well,” she said. “I feel with the traffic in Myrtle Beach that there is plenty of opportunity for all of us.”
Dickey’s franchise owner, Dennis Farmer of Conway, said he decided to open a barbecue restaurant after being laid off from Coca-Cola last year. He said he spent a lot of time with family in Georgia and got the idea to open a franchise of the Dallas-based organization.
“There just isn’t a lot of barbecue in the area,” he said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity.”
Farmer said he’s had some issues with redesigning the inside of his store, which was a Quiznos, and hopes to be able to begin construction next week.
He said he hopes the restaurant does well enough to open more Dickey’s franchises nearby.
Nationally, barbecue restaurants have been growing the past few years even with the rough economy, according to Jeff Allen, executive director of the National Barbecue Association. He said there are a few reasons for that.
“There are fewer barriers to entry than other [types of restaurants],” he said. “You don’t have to leverage all of your assets to open a barbecue restaurant. The cooking equipment isn’t very expansive. All you need is a good smoker [to cook the meat].”
Allen also said that the restaurants tend to be more casual.
“It’s a down-home type of casual feel, so there’s not a lot of expensive décor needed for the restaurants,” he said. “Barbecue is a type of food that appeals to everyone because it’s a common food that doesn’t have to be very expensive.”
During the past five years, barbecue has spread beyond the south and restaurants are popular throughout the country, especially in New England and the West coast, Allen said.
Horry-Georgetown Technical College head chef instructor Thomas Mullally said he thinks barbecue restaurants will continue to appear in Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area.
“In about two years we’re going to open a new culinary building and we’re putting in a customized barbecue pit here,” he said. “That’s how firm we feel about it – to teach the kids how to make barbecue.”
Mullally said he welcomes the increased number of barbecue restaurants in town.
“We are in the south and barbecue is a big deal,” he said. “There’s not as many barbecue places here like there are seafood places, so there’s room for more.”
But the owner of Little Pigs Bar-B-Q, which has been in business for 15 years, said Myrtle Beach has been tough on barbecue restaurants in the past.
Robert Huffling said that he thinks consistency in the food he serves is what’s caused Little Pigs to stay in business. He said he’s seen a few other barbecue restaurants open in Myrtle Beach over the years, but they haven’t lasted very long.
“You have to ask yourself why these places come and go,” he said. “People typically come here looking for seafood.”
And how does he feel about having more competition in town?
“We’ll just have to see how it goes,” he said. “But, item for item, I’ll go up against anyone.”
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.