Hickory’s Smokehouse crowned 11th best company to work for in national Top 100 List

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Hickory's Smokehouse 1

The team at Chester-based restaurant business, Hickory’s Smokehouse, are thrilled to be crowned one of the best places to work in the UK, in the Top 100 ‘Best Large Companies’ list which was revealed earlier today. 

The privately owned company, which has restaurants across the North West & Midlands, stormed into eleventh place nationally, positioning them as one of the best hospitality businesses to work for in the UK.

Along with regional wins in Wales and the Midlands, and a 5th place position in the North West; Hickory’s were also crowned the overall ‘Best Improved’ large company in the UK. The Best Company Awards are the UK’s most influential employee engagement awards, scoring employers on all aspects of their culture and employee experience.

Hickory's Smokehouse

The smokehouse group, which launched its first restaurant in Chester in 2010, has gone on to gain huge popularity with its unrivalled mix of authentic BBQ food and genuine Southern style hospitality. Still very much an independent, with a huge focus on guest experience, the group now has 11 restaurants with a further two due to open later this year.

Hickory’s founder Neil McDonnell, who was inspired to create the brand after a life-changing road trip around the Southern states, said that the company’s people were very much at the heart of all they had achieved in the last 10 years: “We are so incredibly pleased to have been awarded such amazing positions in both the national and regional lists. To say this is the proudest day in our company’s history is an understatement. Our teams are literally the life-blood of our business.

“Lots of restaurants serve great food but we know that it’s the passion, creativity, personality and hard work of our teams that have helped us to get where we are today. I want to thank each and every one of them for every shift, every smile and for sticking by us on this journey,” added Neil. 

Neil says that those involved with running the business, which employs over 1,000 team members across their 11 restaurants and Chester HQ, have worked hard to adapt their culture and transform their working environment over recent years, creating a raft of team benefits and development opportunities, as well as supporting team throughout the prolonged lockdown periods.

Along with the launch of their very own Hickory’s Academy, which now delivers over 60 bespoke training courses and development days, the company also has a strong support network for the team including their senior management roadshows. On the annual roadshows every team member spends 15 minutes 1-on-1 with a senior leader sharing their thoughts, views and ideas.

Pre-pandemic, the company also organised enrichment trips every year to the southern states along with trips across Europe and the UK, all designed to inspire and educate the team about the company ethos and broaden their knowledge about the industry as a whole.

Hickory’s Head of People Rachel Woodcock said: “Our teams are the absolute beating heart of our business and the last year has taught us more than anything, that communication, honesty and transparency are key in keeping our teams engaged. Our focus on wellbeing has included, not just an increase in education and awareness around mental health, but also to try and break the mould of hospitality in creating a real work/life balance for our teams. This has been a huge focus for us, and we are delighted to have received such positive feedback from our teams. We have made great improvements, but we will continually strive to be even better.”

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