July 12, 2018

Memphis’ Central BBQ is coming to Nashville

A popular Memphis barbecue joint is planting its flag in Nashville.

Central BBQ plans to open a restaurant in early 2019 at 408 11th Ave. N. in the Capitol View development.

“Consistency is paramount when it comes to competition (barbecue) and focusing on quality, excellent pork and meat is really important. That was (the founders’) foundation and why they set out to do Central BBQ and it really took hold here in Memphis,” said Webb Wilson, a principal with Kemmons Wilson Companies, which partnered last year with Central BBQ founders Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp.

Kemmons Wilson Companies came on board to help the 16-year-old Central BBQ expand outside of Memphis. The Nashville outpost will be the company’s fifth location and Wilson said they’ll open additional locations if the Music City restaurant proves to be successful.

“We’re obviously proud of the product we produce, and given the success here in Memphis, we feel like we could be successful in other cities,” Wilson said.

Central BBQ uses hickory and pecan woods, along with a dry rub, to craft its meat. Menu options include pork nachos, a slab of ribs, beef briscuit, marinated slow-smoked turkey, portabella sandwich, barbecue bologna sandwich, barbecue salad, fries, pork rinds, mac n’ cheese, greens and potato salad.

Wilson said the team was drawn to the Nashville location at Capitol View for its accessibility, the built-in customer base with HCA and Lifeway employees and the lack of nearby barbecue competition. They also had an existing relationship with Capitol View developer Boyle Investment Company.

“(Competition) is definitely a concern for us, but again, that was why we selected where we did. We felt it was a good opportunity and it could be a good launching pad for the business and it’s also why we’re not doing five restaurants next year, we’re going to do one.”

“If that does well, we’ll probably do another,” Wilson said.

Wilson said Kemmons Wilson provides the infrastructure for growth and Blondis and Sapp still oversee the food side of the business to ensure quality and consistency in the product.

Central BBQ underwent a rebranding under the new partnership with Kemmons Wilson, which included new signs, graphics and colors. The old sign featuring a smiling pig against an oval, yellow background has been replaced by a pig-less blue sign that simply states “Central BBQ” in large, white letters, surrounded by the smaller “Memphis Style que since ’02.”

Kemmons Wilson Companies was founded in 1948 by the man who started Holiday Inn. Four years ago, the late Kemmons Wilson’s grandsons — Webb Wilson, Spence Wilson Jr., Kemmons Wilson III and McLean Wilson — were named principal leaders.

Kemmons Wilson Companies also has businesses in aviation, financial services, hotels, insurance, real estate and time-share housing.

Originally Published in The Tennessean

By Lizzy Alfs