Smith was so successful as a franchisee he was invited to work in corporate and ascended to chief operating officer of Steak & Ale Corp. He moved from there to Chi-Chi's, where in two years he raised profits from $18 million to $38 million. When Jack in the Box bought the company, the stock windfall allowed Smith to realize a new dream.
Chasing the dream
Smith moved his family back to Norman in 1992 and founded the Hal Smith Restaurant Group, which would serve as a restaurant development company. The first addition was Charleston's, which Kraft opened in 1986. Then came exclusive franchising rights for Outback Steakhouses in five states.
By the time Smith and Kraft met Randy Hogan on a patch of wooded acreage overlooking Lake Hefner, the Hal Smith Restaurant Group had expanded Charleston's, sold its Outback stores back to the parent company and dominated the Ed Noble Parkway in Norman.
“Randy had showed us his plans for the East Wharf right there in the cold, and said we needed to open a restaurant there,” Kraft said.
Kraft said Smith showed immediate interest.
“Randy asked what we'd call the place, and Hal said, ‘Redrock.' Then I added in ‘Canyon Grill.'”
Redrock gave Kraft the opportunity to create the Southwest-theme concept he'd had in mind a while. It became the first top-to-bottom concept they created since the group's creation, leading to the openings of Mahogany, Mama Roja, The Hefner Grill, the reboot of Hollie's, the Bob Stoops idea Louie's, Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, Upper Crust Wood-Fired Pizza, and The Garage Burgers and Grill.
The group still operates Krispy Kreme stores and purchased and expanded the Ted's Cafe Escondido concept several years ago. The next big concept is the recently announced Kevin Durant project, KD's.
But this week is all about the return of the original Redrock, which also has locations in Tulsa and Wichita, Kan.
If you go
Redrock Canyon Grill, 9221 Lake Hefner Parkway, is open for dinner only and Sunday brunch. The Flying Chicken takeout menu is available as well; just call ahead, and when you arrive, drive up to the back door for what the menu lists as “deluxe curbside service.” Phone number is 749-1995.