“We’ve been looking for a number of years,” says Shang Skipper, president of Mac’s Hospitality Group. “We finally found the right deal for us.” Mac’s Speed Shop is targeting an early summer opening in Concord.
MAC’S SPEED SHOP Location: Multiple locations Neighborhoods: Lake Norman, Matthews, Steele Creek, South End Menu Price: 6 for $12 or 12 for $24 What to know: They’re slow-smoked, then grilled and tossed in your choice of NC White BBQ, Western NC BBQ, Carolina BBQ, SC Mustard, VTX Chipotle, honey BBQ, dry rub, burn out or Buffalo.
Make reservations for the Miracle pop-up at BackStage Lounge, the speakeasy behind SouthBound. You can sip Christmas-themed cocktails and grab snacks in a festive setting there through Dec. 31. 6 p.m.-midnight. 2433 South Blvd.
Mac’s Speed Shop is expanding its footprint with a new Mooresville restaurant — and closing its longtime Cornelius location as part of those plans.
The popular barbecue joint will invest roughly $1.1 million into a restaurant off Interstate 77’s exit 36, near Brawley School Road. Plans call for that restaurant to open in the first quarter of 2022, says Shang Skipper, president of Mac’s Hospitality Group.
Construction should begin within 45 days, with equipment and furniture already being ordered.
“We feel pretty confident we’ll have everything we need,” Skipper says.
The restaurant group will shutter its current Cornelius location at 19601 Liverpool Parkway on Nov. 24. Approximately 50 employees from that restaurant will be offered positions at other Mac’s locations or at sister concept Southbound.
“That location has been so kind and so great to us, but the traffic has shifted. It’s been a great 15-year run,” Skipper says.
It’s all part of ongoing efforts to position the brand for future growth. Skipper says the brand plans to open five restaurants over the next 12 to 15 months. A deal for a second north Charlotte restaurant that could open early next year is in the works, he adds.
Mac’s also has plans for a Fort Mill restaurant, which is expected to open in the second quarter of 2022. Plans call for two restaurants on a 3-plus acre site off Exit 85 on S.C. Highway 160 in Fort Mill. Both will be between 4,000 and 5,000 square feet. A new concept that will feature live music is under development.
The 5,500-square-foot Mooresville restaurant will serve as a prototype for the brand moving forward, Skipper says. It’s key for locations to have a patio, indoor/ outdoor space and the right kitchen layout.
“We want to understand what square footage we need, what does it look like and how do we build it more efficiently,” Skipper says.
The Charlotte restaurant group currently operates eight locations of Mac’s Speed Shop in the Carolinas, as well as Southbound, The Music Yard and Backstage Lounge. It has invested more than $20 million into its restaurant portfolio.
Jon Beall with Red Partners represented Mac’s in the Mooresville deal.
Industry wide labor shortages and supply-chain issues are still causing major headaches for owners and operators throughout the restaurant industry.
It’s forced restaurants like Mac’s Speed Shop to pivot again at this stage of the COVID-19 recovery, including paring back menu offerings and finding new sources for kitchen equipment needed to open new units.
Mac’s Speed Shop, which currently operates units across the Carolinas, serves cold beer and barbecue to customers seven days a week. Co-president Shang Skipper says that’s becoming pricier given the steady increase in costs for popular items such as chicken wings and beef brisket.
Skipper says Mac’s had to remove about 20 percent of its total menu because they simply “can’t do these things.”
Items were removed for being too expensive, either because the cost of food made it unprofitable or the price of labor was too great to keep churning out certain dishes.
“it’s just too much on the kitchen; too much on the staff. It takes too many hours. We just can’t do it,” he says. “So, we’ve taken an approach of what can we execute at a high level and ensure that people are getting the full experience?”
This led Mac’s to focus on dishes that take less time to prep and are more easily executed. Mac’s also increases menu prices on chicken wings and brisket. And while the increased cost of chicken wings should come as no surprise, the cost of beef skyrocketed in recent months, caused in large part to a drought across the American West.
According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the aggregate national herd has shrunk in numbers, and the animals that do make it to market weigh an average of 15 pounds less than animals from the previous year.
“We’ve been essentially losing money on those two items,” Skipper says. “So, it’s unfortunate and we don’t want to do it. We hope that we can bring the pricing back sooner rather than later. But at this point, we have no choice. We at least need to break even on those items.”
Skipper says he’s been told by suppliers beef prices may not start to fall for up to a year given the ongoing drought in parts of the country. This means unfortunately, he says, menu prices on items such as brisket and chicken wings will remain high. A self-described optimist, Skipper says although conditions aren’t ideal at the moment, the market could change.
“Cattle herds can increase rather quickly, the demand for beef could go down,” he says. “You never know what could happen with natural cycles.”
Supply chain issues aren’t the only problem Mac’s is facing. Like other restaurants, it’s struggled to fully staff locations. In response, Mac’s started to offer better pay and benefits than it ever has, Skipper says.
Per the most recent U.S. Labor Department, only 194,000 jobs were added in September, falling well below Dow Jones estimate of 500,000. On top of fewer jobs being added, more Americans are quitting their jobs than any other time on record—according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 4.3 million Americans did so in August.
Staffing shortages haven’t deterred Skipper, however. He says the most important thing a restaurant can do is to be nimble and pragmatic. He says it’s also necessary to keep in mind how hard those who are present are working.
“I think some people are extremely overworked and we’re trying to figure out how to reduce those hours for them,” he says. “We’re not afraid or shy about closing the restaurant for lunch if we have to so that we can give people time off. In august we closed the entire organization for a day to give everyone a break and just a mental health day, if you will. We’re not afraid to look at all options on the table.”
A new issue that may arise is related to vaccine mandates. An internal survey of staff revealed that almost 30 percent of workers would leave Mac’s if vaccines became mandatory.
Skipper says he thought after unemployment benefits rolled back staffing issues would ease. That hasn’t been the case. But he’s hopeful the upcoming holiday season will provide a boon in employment, although winter months tend to be the slowest for Mac’s.
“I have to imagine people are going to go back to work,” he says. “Maybe it will be Christmas that triggers it. If people are back working that would solve 80 percent of the issues currently. One thing we have going for us is we’re heading into a time where it’s a little bit slower so we’re going to have relief for our employees.”
Another problem Mac’s is facing is related to growth. With five units in the pipeline, the chain, naturally, needs kitchen equipment, and this, Skipper says, provided a new challenge.
He says the issue isn’t as much that certain pieces of equipment aren’t available for purchase, it has more to do with who has the ability to purchase them.
“There are much larger corporations out there buying 50 restaurants worth of equipment at a time,” he says. “That puts some extreme squeeze on the market for guys like us who are hoping to grow. We had a call with a partner last week and we were told if we want fryers and ovens, you’ve got to order now to get them in April.”
To combat these issues, Skipper says, Mac’s is looking at how to better streamline kitchens and dining rooms. He says one of the new locations is going to have no servers, just food runners and kitchen staff. He says they’ll also look at what equipment can be cut from the kitchen or replaced by something more readily available.
Despite setbacks, Mac’s is in a good place, Skipper says.
“If you adapt, you will survive,” he says. “Even with these challenges, we’re still finding ways to get guests in the door and serve them and make sure that they have a great experience.”
Skipper says “95 percent” of Mac’s customers have been understanding of the recent menu changes.
“Everyone please treat your servers and bartenders with kindness,” he says. “They’re working incredibly hard to ensure that you have a great experience
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mac’s Speed Shop is holding its 6th Annual Charity Golf Tournament on October 25th in loving memory of Kelli Putnam, with proceeds benefitting hospitality workers and their families.
The tournament will be held at River Hills Country Club in Lake Wylie, S.C. with registration at 10 a.m. followed by tee off at 12 p.m.
Restaurant officials say Kelli Putnam was a light in the community and a valued member of the Mac’s team before she was killed by a drunk driver as she tried to cross South Boulevard near Mac’s South End after a Carolina Panthers game in January 2016.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, The Kelli Putnam Foundation was created to help those, mainly in the service industry, facing personal hardships due to illness, financial burdens, and other unexpected challenges in their lives.
Officials say this year’s golf tournament will help support the family of a long-time friend of the service industry who died from an infection at 40-years-old, and to help pay for a service dog for a former Mac’s employee who was headed to the police academy before being diagnosed with epilepsy.
Mac’s officials say with 2020 being an especially challenging year for the service industry, they continue to show devotion to the community and to their employees in a variety of ways.
At the beginning of 2021, Mac’s Hospitality Group launched a Give Back program to deliver free meals to healthcare workers, schools, and others.
Officials say the company also created an Employee Incentive Program to reward hard-working team members, and closed all its stores to give every an employee a day off in August.
The 2020 Annual Charity Golf Tournament raised $20,000, and officials say the goal for 2021 is to raise at least $25,000.