King: “It’s going to be more futuristic where you order everything on the app”

Cookeville – The aroma was brilliant. The grill was sizzling, and the first customers of a new era chatted as morning sun peeked into the new dining room at Bobby Q’s. The Cookeville staple officially reopened for business on Tuesday in the newly designed building just off the square at 428 E Broad Street.

“We are going to get that honey glaze right on that ham,” said Michael King, Owner of Bobby Q’s as he made the rounds and greeted customers. The glaze wasn’t quite perfect, at least in the eyes of King.

“It’s too sweet,” he says.

Officially opened for business – Bobby Q’s welcomed guests on April 11.

King has been successful in the restaurant business. He not only owns Bobby Q’s, but he also owns Monell’s in Nashville. He decided to buy Bobby Q’s after reading a story about its closing. The closure was another step toward what he called “losing the fabric of the neighborhoods.”

“I thought it would be a quick turnover,” said King of construction and reopening, “but I decided it would need more work.”

The vibe has changed at Bobby Q’s with added windows for more light, a patio for outdoor seating and breakfast, lunch and dinner service.

“It’s brighter,” said King. “We have counter service now as opposed to table service.”

What started as a three-month sprint to reopening, turned into a yearlong journey. Supply chain played a small part in the delay, but King said his vision to change the look and feel made things take a little longer.

Working through it – Bobby Q’s owner Michael King (left) helps work through issues on opening day.

“I wasn’t going to rush it,” said King. “I could have opened three or four months ago, but we wouldn’t have been ready.”

They stripped the place of electric, plumbing and everything from wall to wall.

Opening days are always an adventure, but King said this first morning had gone smoothly.

“We have been training for the last week-and-a-half,” said King, “but training is nothing compared to when you open. That’s when you find out how well your training went. We decided to open up during the week, so by the weekend we have our systems in place.”

The kitchen is “wide and big and bright,” according to King. The pitmaster sits in the middle of the house, and 90 racks were smoking as of this writing.

“When you reopen a restaurant what you do is take the good and the bad of history,” said King. “That’s the challenge when you buy someone else’s name because you take the reputation worth it. I think the year has allowed people to know there is a change coming, but also to look forward to some of the items they were used to for the last 37 years, but also get ready for some new items.”

Back of house – The grills were sizzling.

King said the new menu items and changes could keep the business going for another 50 years, but are there challenges in opening a business in the current economic climate?

“It hasn’t been difficult because I have a brand name with Monell’s,” said King. “At the same token, a lot of people are having problems finding employees.”

That’s not been an issue for one simple reason, according to King.

“We pay very well,” he said.

Bobby Q’s starts anywhere from $15 to $21 an hour, and they have hired 11 people locally.

“If you don’t pay, you get what you pay for,” said King. “These folks are professional folks, and they deserve to be treated with respect.”

King said he is grateful to the community throughout the process of reopening.

“I love the restaurant scene in Cookeville,” said King. “There is a lot of volume here, and I just love the energy. We have been received wonderfully, from the previous mayor to the current mayor. All the codes people have been incredible and very kind. We are just grateful to able to contribute to the community.”

What’s next for Bobby Q’s? Expansion, franchising and a stepping into the future are the ultimate goals.

“We have a couple of locations we are already thinking about,” said King. “It’s going to be more futuristic where you order everything on the app. You will go into the store. You won’t see anybody. You will go to your food locker, and your hot food will already be there. The cooks will be on the other side. We are at that point where everybody needs convenience.”

But there is always room for that warm feeling of sitting down with a hot plate in front of you and a friend at the table.

“People need that camaraderie,” said King. “Now people can make new traditions.”

For more info call (931) 526-1024 or visit

UCBJ photos.

Ron Moses is the managing editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal and can be reached via email. Send an email.

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