WICHITA — Hog Wild Pit Bar-B-Q founder and principal owner Gary Poulton has sold his interest in HR Development, which owns seven Hog Wild restaurants.
“I’ve done this for a long time,” Poulton says. He says he’s “kind of ready to do less.”
“It’s hard to do less when you have to run restaurants.”
Former Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon president and COO T.D. O’Connell purchased Poulton’s interest in the company.
“Everybody has different skill sets, and mine was the creation of Hog Wild,” Poulton says.
Poulton says he thinks O’Connell’s skill set will be to “create something much better out of that.”
“The concept has a lot more potential than I was willing to go out on a limb for as far as future development (and) future growth.”
Poulton talked with four groups about selling his interest and felt O’Connell’s background made him best suited to take over the company.
“I just felt like he was the best person or entity to take Hog Wild forward,” Poulton says. “It’ll be a better run company under T.D.’s watchful, watchful eye.”
O’Connell was with Lone Star from 1995 to 2005, the last three years of which he was president and COO.
Since then, in addition to traveling and doing real estate investments, O’Connell helped start Wichita-based NOA Group. The company, in which he’s still a partner, supplies private label apparel and other items to hunting, fishing and other outdoor retailers.
O’Connell, too, considered several options before buying into HR Development, including independent restaurants and franchises.
“It was kind of a clear choice and a great direction to head,” he says. “Gary did a great job building a brand.”
There are five Hog Wilds in Wichita and one each in Hutchinson and Salina. Each restaurant’s general manager owns a piece of the restaurant, which O’Connell says makes it possible to attract quality managers.
“They’ve hired great general managers,” O’Connell says. “I’m kind of getting immersed into the company, seeing exactly where we’re at.”
Lone Star had more than 300 restaurants nationally. It was a publicly traded company, but O’Connell isn’t looking to take Hog Wild public. He is looking to grow it, though.
“I’ve got some good ideas.”
Poulton isn’t sure what he’ll do next.
The 57-year-old may or may not return to work.
“I’m job hunting, but I’m not homeless or shoeless.”