By Becky Billingsley
Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, Myrtle Beach – Bullard Restaurant Group owns or is a partner in more than 45 restaurants, and the company is opening at least three more in the Myrtle Beach area.
Two of the restaurants are Moe’s Southwest Grills. One is under construction in a former bank building near Barefoot Landing and Alligator Adventure in North Myrtle Beach, and the second is going in a new building under construction near the new Target by the intersection of U.S. 17 Bypass and S.C. 544 in the Surfside Beach area.
A third Bullard Restaurant Group Moe’s is also a possibility for the Myrtle Beach area.
Another restaurant Clif Bullard of Bullard Restaurant Group is planning to bring to the area is the Grand Strand’s first location of a Smithfield’s Chicken ‘n Bar-B-Q restaurant.
Bullard, age 58, grew up in Lumberton, N.C., and says he spent many happy weekends and summers at his father’s beach house in North Myrtle Beach.
“We spent the summer there from the 1970s,” he said today in a phone interview. “I grew up in Myrtle Beach. I love Myrtle Beach.”
Bullard even spent a summer working at the Gay Dolphin gift shop on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.
In 1980, Bullard and his father opened the first Burger King restaurant in Lumberton. Today his family’s company, Bullard Restaurant Group with offices in Raleigh and Lumberton, has 18 Burger Kings.
Bullard says his company is also getting ready to open their ninth and tenth Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q restaurants, and is seeking a site to open in a Myrtle Beach area location with the help of childhood friend Kenan Walker of Waccamaw Land & Timber in Myrtle Beach.
“I knew Kenan in Lumberton,” Bullard said. “We’re on the local BB&T bank board together. He’s done a great job helping us find sites, and he’s going to help us find locations for Smithfield’s barbecue.”
Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q has been a North Carolina dining staple for 40 years, and the quick-service restaurants with drive-through windows are known for North Carolina pulled pork barbecue with vinegar/pepper sauce and fried chicken. There are more than 30 locations in North Carolina.
Bullard is the majority stockholder in 19 Moe’s Southwest Grills, a franchise that was founded in 2000 in Atlanta, Ga., and today has more than 440 locations in 33 states. Moe’s is known for freshly prepared Tex-Mex fare such as burritos, tacos, quesadillas, salads and nachos with names related to popular media, such as the Art Vandalay Burrito in honor of a popular “Seinfeld” episode. Customers also are greeted heartily upon entering the restaurants with employees shouting, “Welcome to Moe’s!”
Bullard’s other Moe’s locations are in Raleigh, Charlotte, Pinehurst, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, and his company has purchased the rights (and pre-purchased several existing Moe’s) for Moe’s in Columbus, Ohio, and western Manhattan in New York.
One Moe’s Southwest Grill is already located at University Commons near Coastal Carolina University, but Bullard does not own that one. Another Moe’s in Murrells Inlet closed a couple of years ago, and Bullard was not connected to that unit either.
The North Myrtle Beach location will be Bullard’s 20th, Moe’s, and it will be his company’s 48th restaurant. He plans to start hiring employees around the middle of November, and hopes to be open by the middle of December. The Surfside Beach location will open “by the latter part of 2013 for sure.”
Each Moe’s will employ about 35 people for start-up operations with starting wages between minimum wage and $10 per hour for counter and kitchen employees, depending on their experience. Managers and assistants, Bullard said, will earn between $35,000 and $55,000 per year, factoring in bonuses. Managers will also get health benefits.
“We have tons of opportunities for experienced people,” he said, “and we’ll bring them on for a premium rate.”
Bullard said up until now, “…no one else purchased the Myrtle Beach [Moe’s] market. There were inquiries, but the demographics throw you off a bit. The statistics show a population of 35-40,000, but what they don’t understand is in the summer there are 825,000 people in the community for several months. With golfers and the whole deal, I’d say that very rarely, if ever, in a 12-month period of time there are less than 75,000 people in Myrtle Beach. I bet in 2012, that was the least amount on the worst day. It’s a wonderful market, and Moe’s is really excited about it.
“It’s fun – I love the restaurant business. When it’s in your blood, that’s what you do and what you know. I love it. My job is really more site selection now. I spent 20 years operationally with our company, but now it’s more the site development and banking part of it. We have some great people working with us that have been around – 15 years is a short-time employee with us. Some have been with us for 32 years. And they are happy. It’s been a fun, successful, profitable ride for us. It’s hard work now – I tell you what – but it’s been really good to us. We have almost 1,300 employees, and we’ll be up to 1,300 when we open up in Myrtle Beach.”