Grillstock Smokehouse was opened in a 32-cover site in Clifton on 11 June. It follows in the footsteps of a takeaway unit which the team have operated in St Nicholas Market – known as St Nicks – since autumn 2012.
Speaking to BigHospitality, Grillstock co-founder Ben Merrington explained the takeaway stall had confirmed there was the potential to open a sit-down restaurant, a concept they are already hoping to expand.
“We are definitely opening more,” he revealed. “We don’t have a fixed rollout model planned yet, it is a little bit early, but encouraging sales from Clifton have led us to start looking for bigger sites outside of Bristol in major cities – probably from Bristol outwards,” he added.
Under the tagline ‘Meat, Music & Mayhem’, Grillstock was founded in 2010 when Merrington and friend Jon Finch held the first barbecue and music festival in Bristol after being inspired by their travels in the US and disillusioned by barbecue culture in the UK.
A festival has been held in the South West city every year since and the team held their first event in Manchester last month.
Grillstock now boasts well-placed backers in the form of private investment firm Heron Capital Partners and Ajith Jaya Wickrema, the founder of Las Iguanas and Turtle Bay, who has a seat on the Board as a non-executive director.
Merrington was keen to make clear the business will retain its original ethos throughout its growth.
“The restaurants are the key part of our business going forward but we have been allowed to grow them from the festivals and they will always be at the heart of our business.
“We will try and get a mini festival experience into each place we open,” he added. The restaurants will include nods to the company’s festival roots – music will be a key feature of each site and the food will be served on metal trays as opposed to traditional tableware.
The first Grillstock site has exceeded expectations despite the challenges the team have had to overcome – the size and width of the venue meant builders had to remove the whole front wall in order to move in the firm’s bespoke smoker.
However the nature of the site has resulted in an interior from Simple Simon Design which accommodates one communal table, constructed from steel girders, which has helped to recreate the feel of festival dining – a central trough gives diners access to a range of sauces.
Merrington is keen to open larger sites in the future in order to be able to feature an extended food menu and draught beer, as well as the cans of craft beer currently on offer.
However he is not ruling out the expansion into small sites given the success of Clifton – the team had been expecting a 50/50 split between eat-in and takeaway but most diners have opted to eat on site, increasing the average spend per head.
What will be present in all Grillstock restaurants will be the barbecue menu. Pulled pork and beef patty burgers feature alongside BBQ plates such as ‘smokin’ chicken’ and baby back ribs as well as a range of traditional sides.
Diners are also invited to take the Grand Champion challenge – anyone who can singlehandedly put away a Man vs. Food-style plate of meat wins a t-shirt and a bottle of one of Grillstock’s own sauces.
At £28, the Grand Champion dish is also being ordered by people wanting a meal to share.