By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – When Ronnie Bishop opened his first barbecue restaurant in Saltillo six years ago, he envisioned having more than one store.
In 2011, he opened a second restaurant on McCullough Boulevard in Tupelo, and last year, he added a third location in Booneville.
In a matter of weeks, he’ll be opening the fourth Bishop’s BBQ & Grill.
It will be located on West Main Street in the former Eli’s BBQ.
“I always knew I’d have several restaurants,” Bishop said. “I just didn’t think it would happen this fast. … but we had some incredible opportunities open up for us.”
The latest expansion means another 12 employees for Bishop, who already has 70 on the payroll.
The West Main Street location will debut a new menu for Bishop’s, which will carry current popular items, along with new items.
And while drive-up business always will be welcome, the restaurant will emphasize having customers call and pick up their food.
“We’re going to push the drive-through,” he said.
“Lots of people see us as fast-food, but we’re not,” Bishop added. “We have a busy kitchen set up to get food out fast, in six to seven minutes, but it’s not fast food. It’s good food served fast.”
Bishop, who gets to work around 4:30 every morning to check on the four giant smokers at the McCullough site – he has seven total – is a tireless workhorse who wants to make sure the quality of his food is consistent across the board.
But instead of trying to do everything himself like he once did, he’s learned to let go a little.
“I soon realized you can’t do it all yourself – you have to have a team to help, and I’ve got that,” he said.
And he’s not through building his brand just yet, with plans to add additional locations over the next few years.
“We’re looking at New Albany, Fulton, Ripley, Corinth, Houston. … We want to move in a circle out from Tupelo,” Bishop said. “We’ve always had people approach us about opening a restaurant, and that’s humbling. It means we must be doing something right.”