How do you know a restaurant is good? A crowd.
For those of you already familiar with Farm Boy’s Barbeque in Chapin, I can imagine the smiles on your faces right now. You know that line to get in. You’ve stood in it — I’m sure.
On my first visit to Farm Boy’s, the line began forming outside fifteen minutes before opening time. All I could think to myself was, “Whitney, I thought you were early.” The relaxed and easy conversations around me indicated that this growing queue is a normal occurrence outside of this restaurant.
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As I stood, silently counting down the minutes with my future fellow-diners, snippets of positive remarks replayed through my mind like subliminal mini-commercials: “Oh, I love that place” … “In Chapin? Yeah, they’re great!” … “Oh! That’s who catered my friend’s wedding!”
I recalled the folks who had given me these responses. I considered their hard-to-please palates. Farm Boy’s might be really good …
Then I found out.
A hospitable gentleman — who turned out to be the owner, Mr. Kim Kirby — welcomed me in as I entered. He paired me with his general manager, Riley Furman, to answer my questions and show me around the restaurant. Mr. Kirby also encouraged me to have a seat, grab a plate and decide for myself about the offerings.
Am I able to turn down a plate from a barbeque buffet? Um. No.
Enticed by the sight of the buffet and the aroma in the restaurant, I grew hungrier as I waited my turn. I don’t mind my food touching, and I like it piled high — I put as many colors, textures and options on my plate that would fit. I made it to a community table, had a seat and prepared to dig in.
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I ate slowly — so as not to resemble the Farm Boy’s logo — and observed the dining room. The friendly waitstaff often catered to the diners before anything was even requested of them. Nice. The guests who arrived in groups were now leaning over and talking to their neighbors as they enjoyed their lunch. What a friendly and inclusive atmosphere.
Back to my lunch …
I love vegetables and I had a variety to taste-test. They were delicious. Now it was time for the pulled pork. I grew up in this state eating mustard-based barbecue and I knew I would love it — no surprise, it was excellent. I was excited, though, to discover that I enjoy the pepper-vinegar barbecue just as much. It was seasoned to perfection and so savory that I almost went back to the buffet for seconds.
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Riley juggled his tasks of handling operations and checking on me while I dined. During his visits to my table, I learned the history of Farm Boy’s Barbeque and the different roles everyone plays. I updated him on the progress of my feast-tasting and of my delight at both flavors of pulled pork. I expect my smile and cleared plated confirmed that what I was telling him was true.
Two gentlemen joined my table and offered me some interesting conversation. I was relieved to have them there to talk to. Maybe there’s something to this community seating! A great meal and I made some friends? What a day!
I knew I’d be back and told Riley and Mr. Kirby so. Can you believe that when I returned on another day I saw my table-buddies again? We continued the conversation that was started weeks before. What is it about this place that makes a regular out of you?
I think I may know …
Good food brings people together. Good food and a great atmosphere keeps them coming back.
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Whitney Salley: First of all, tell our readers a little bit about yourself …
Riley Furman: I am the general manager of Farm Boy’s Barbeque. I have been here for over seven years. I was born in the great town of Chapin and also raised here by my grandmother and grandfather. I started at Farm Boy’s as a regular kitchen employee, working for the founder, Mr. Wells Gibson. When the current owner, Mr. Kim Kirby, took over the business in 2016 he didn’t change much about its operations. Through the years, I have moved up from the kitchen manager to my current position.
I enjoy the Chapin community, beautiful Lake Murray and the wonderful golf courses around the area.
WS: Can you tell us more about the history of Farm Boy’s Barbeque and the transition into the current ownership?
RF: The founder and original owner, Mr. Gibson, is a wonderful cook and Barbecue Master. He and his wife initially started cooking for groups and catering. He retired from law enforcement in the late ’90s and opened Farm Boy’s Barbeque in Chapin — in a small building on the main drag, next to the railroad tracks. As the lines got longer and the already small building got smaller, he built this current location near Interstate 26. In 2016, Mr. Kirby bought the building and the business from the Gibson family. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, very, very little has changed. All of the Gibsons’ recipes are still in place as well as the family atmosphere and friendly service.
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WS: Which aspects of the business are you most involved with? What parts of the business are handled by others? Who would you describe as the core members of your team?
RF: As the general manager, I am involved with the day-to-day activities throughout the entire restaurant. We have an information technology employee, which is a great help to me as I am not as tech savvy as him. We have a catering supervisor that makes sure all items go to the correct events and at the proper times. We currently have two servers who take care of the entire dining room — with smiles on their faces, which is a wonderful approach when you have a dining room full of people with others waiting to be seated. The drive-through and takeout staff handle almost all of the bulk orders and the plates. They stay busy all day and sometimes make me feel as if I am moving slowly. One of the key elements to the quality of our food is the kitchen staff who arrive at 7 a.m. to start preparing the delicious food — from the sides to the specials and even an occasional half a hog! If I had to describe anyone as a “core member,” it would be everyone here. Each employee is a valuable asset to Farm Boy’s and we couldn’t do what we do without everybody we have.
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WS: Tell us about the food you serve. Your buffet has all sorts of staples in addition to the barbecue — for example the ribs and the barbecue chicken — but walk us through what you offer to diners. And you mix the menu up on different nights, right?
RF: We offer fried chicken by the piece or the whole bird. We also have two pulled pork options — mustard-based or pepper-vinegar. Both sauces are made in house, every day.
At 4:30 p.m. our barbecue ribs and barbecue chicken become available.
We serve home-style and delicious sides with a very wide range of options, such as collards, limas, green beans, corn, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, rice, hash, stewed tomatoes and pepper milk gravy. We have fresh pork skins every day and piping hot hush puppies. Our french fries are also a hit. Our coleslaw and unique marinated slaw are popular as well.
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The dessert is made from scratch. We offer banana pudding and cherry dump cake. We also have a range of other cakes — chocolate cake with white icing or chocolate icing, strawberry cake, lemon cake, funfetti cake, carrot cake and spice cake.
Thursday lunches are a great time to come and dine with us for our fried pork chops. If you want them, you better come early because we have a line out the door.
Thursday nights are a wonderful time for the entire family. The specials rotate each week between chicken and dumplings, catfish stew, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, fried chicken livers and gizzards and smoked turkey with cornbread dressing and sweet potato casserole. All of these are available at 5 p.m. and are crowd favorites — keeping the dining room, drive-through and takeout as busy as can be.
Friday lunch we have buffalo and teriyaki wings, which are usually gone by 1 p.m.
Our Friday evening special is fried flounder and shrimp, with tartar sauce and fresh house-made cocktail sauce as condiments.
Saturday night is our wing night with raw fries. Our weekly flavors are buffalo, teriyaki and calabash. The rotating flavors are zing, spicy barbecue, garlic pepper, hot teriyaki, lemon pepper and garlic parmesan.
Be sure to get here early, otherwise we will be packed to the brim.
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WS: Your mustard-based barbecue sauce has drawn rave reviews. What’s the secret?
RF: Its sweet and savory flavor pairs very well with some coleslaw and a nice, cold glass of sweet tea. We make our barbecue sauces in-house, fresh, every day. As soon as the meat gets pulled in the morning, we immediately sauce it so it soaks in the entire flavor. Another reason is the natural, slow-cooked smoke flavor from the overnight cooker.
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WS: Tell our readers about the atmosphere at Farm Boy’s Barbeque. If they were to drive across town to dine in your restaurant, what would they find?
RF: The environment at Farm Boy’s Barbeque is pleasant and family-friendly. You may be a stranger the first time you walk in, but by the time you are finished with your meal the servers might know your pet’s name. The staff all around the restaurant are nice and friendly. You may meet your neighbor or a distant friend but one thing is for sure — you will make a friend; either with another customer or with the staff. The décor will have you laughing and wanting to take it home with you — from the unique figurines to the hand-stitched quilt — inside and out is a “home-like feel.”
WS: Times are tight and inflation is obviously a big concern. How do you stay competitive with your prices?
RF: Yes times are tough, and we are doing the best we can with the economy that we have. One way that we have stayed competitive with our prices is to really crack down on waste and what we can do to prevent waste. We have changed some of the products in our to-go containers so that we can fit more.
WS: Farm Boy’s is more than a dine-in buffet. Tell us about catering and other components of your business. Is there a page online where customers can find options and prices?
RF: We offer a very wide variety of options: We have a drive-through/walk-in, we take orders over the phone and offer catering. The drive-through/walk-in is mainly used for our customers who order plated bulk-items. The call-in is also used for plates and bigger bulk-items or catering.
Our menu can be viewed at www.farmboysbbq.com. The website has all of our options that can be ordered and a catering menu that is directly linked to our email. It also shows our daily specials and the different plates we offer.
The Thursday special is updated on the road marquee and on the website Monday afternoon. We take orders throughout the week as well over our voicemail.
WS: Farm Boy’s is just off the Chapin exit on Interstate 26. Do you have other locations? Do you plan to?
RF: Currently we just have the one location. There may be more in the future, but for now we enjoy that we are a destination for customers from all over the midlands and travelers up and down I-26. Opening more often, adding online ordering and delivery and making our catering services more available are just a few changes that we are contemplating.
WS: The last few years have been unpredictable and volatile for all businesses. Obviously, you overcame this hardship. Do you have tips for other small businesses struggling in this economic climate?
RF: Yes, they have been tough, especially for small businesses. The only tip or comment I have is to make sure you take care of the employees who stick it through. We would have had a very hard time overcoming these past few years if it wasn’t for our hardworking and dedicated employees. With every change and new regulation, our employees helped and contributed their own ideas as to how to best manage new processes to deal with COVID-19 rules. Also, our customers just kept coming. When we had to close our dining room, they came to our drive-through. They were patient, understanding and loyal. Our employees never gave up, our customers never gave up and we didn’t give up. Those were the keys to our success.
WS: I see you are active on social media — mainly Facebook. What do you see as its primary benefits? Does it have drawbacks? And do you have any social media tips for other small businesses?
RF: We do have a Facebook page and it has benefits — from getting advertising to the customers who follow us, to leaving reviews — it has been a great source of promotion. Facebook has also helped with customers finding out what we offer and allowing them easy contact about catering. I would highly suggest a Facebook page to any small business as a great way to promote your brand.
BUSINESS: Farm Boy’s Barbeque
INDUSTRY: Food and Beverage/Catering
OWNER: Kim Kirby
LOCATION: 525 Columbia Avenue, Chapin, South Carolina 29036
OTHER LINKS: Facebook
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Whitney Salley is the operations manager at the Columbia office of FITSNews. With a background in customer service operations, Whitney provides support to the FITSNews team and is editor of our UndiSCovered series, which focuses on small businesses around South Carolina. You can reach Whitney here.
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