Central Florida barbecue fans did not know Texas-style brisket when John Rivers opened 4 Rivers Smokehouse in 2009, the restaurateur says. “We debunked barbecue regionalization by bringing in a completely new style.”
Also novel: 4 Rivers’ fast-casual model, a departure from the barbecue roadhouses popular in the Sunshine State. Built in a former gas station, that first location had little space inside to stand as customers waited for their orders at the counter. Long lines formed outside, attracting interest and more customers.
Now, 4 Rivers has 12 locations, fast-casual barbecue is an industrywide sweet spot and the space around the counters has expanded, too. But lines still form out the door. “Every Florida market we go into now knows our brand,” says Rivers.
“We do no advertising, no couponing, but if you support the people in your community, they will support you.”