Entrepreneur Focus: McGhin's Southern Pit Bar-B-Que
The office at Fred and Brenda McGhin’s Southern Pit Bar-B-Que is exactly what the office of a family business should be. A comfortable couch, a television, and wooden chairs furnish a room occupied by family members making calls to catering clients and completing paperwork. The heady aroma of barbecue and smoking meat is a constant reminder that on the other side of the door are hundreds of pounds of delicious food and dozens of hungry customers.
The McGhins started selling their barbecue out of a house in Sunny Side in 1984. They were very successful, and with the help of friends and neighbors the McGhins financed, bought land, and built the Griffin location in 1990. The McGhins credit much of their success to their faith, family, and friends. The restaurant is mostly family operated, and through both good and lean times, their regular customers never waver in their patronage.
The location, too, plays a part in the business’s success. From the start, the McGhins worked with the fire marshal, building inspectors, and other experts to plan a site that would meet their needs for years to come. “We were going to put the pit inside,” says Fred, “but insurance was so high that we put up a separate building for the pit instead.” That decision allowed them to use space in the main building for much-needed storage, and their external pit can cook more than 3,000 pounds of meat at a time.
December is the busiest month at McGhin’s Southern Pit, with orders coming in for whole smoked turkeys, hams, and other meats in family portions. Christmas Eve is the busiest day, as families scramble to get the freshest meat possible at the very last minute. The take-out selection is wide and the portions generous. Even a large family could order a meal from Southern Pit and still have leftovers.
Southern Pit also has a catering service. The McGhins frequently cater events with 300-plus guests, and they have served groups as large as 800 people. Businesses, family reunions, weddings, and more have called upon the McGhins for catering. Fred says they’ve even taken their barbecue as far as North Carolina. The McGhins also “cater” in. Fred and Brenda own McGhin’s Place, the banquet hall up the hill from Southern Pit, an event center for casual get-togethers and formal celebrations alike, award-winning barbecue optional.
The décor is a key part of the Southern Pit experience. Fred’s lifetime of antique collecting has provided unique decorations throughout the restaurant. The hats in his ever-growing hat collection adorn the walls, and the model train is always a highlight. When the McGhins were snowed in for two days in 1992, Fred took the time to install a model train. Originally the train ran continuously, but now it’s on a button system, which saves on repairs. Kids can run up, push the button, and watch the train run around the restaurant three times. You’ll notice the engine, a high-quality German model, pulling cars sponsored by various local businesses. There’s a permanent car for Fred and Brenda’s church, Rock Springs, where the couple is very active.
The McGhins give to the community. They cook often for events at Rock Springs Church. The church members support Southern Pit, and the McGhins support their church however and whenever they can. They also cook for local good causes such as the Christian Women’s Center and Impact Christian Ministries and have helped with fundraisers of all kinds. The McGhins’ support of local businesses and charities has produced a community devoted to bringing friends and family to Southern Pit.
Fred and Brenda are humbled by the blessing they have in Southern Pit. They haven’t needed to change much over the years. They’ve added a few items to the menu here and there, and they now offer larger portions for family meals, but their business model is essentially the same one they had in the beginning—the right ideas at the right time in the right location. It’s a combination resulting in a family business that the McGhins plan to continue as long as there is family to run it.
2964 North Expressway, Griffin, Georgia 30223