John Rivers never set out to create the most successful BBQ chain in Florida. He’s not a classically trained chef or graduate of culinary school. It was in Texas that he found the two loves of his life: his wife and the delicate art of brisket. And it’s been those very two godsends that inspired 4 Rivers as we know it.
John spent 20 years in the healthcare industry before retiring as president of a billion-dollar company. During that time, he had the opportunity to travel the country, honing his taste and talent for brisket perfection. As he soaked up the flavors and practices of ‘cue fare countrywide, John’s dream of de-regionalizing BBQ was born.
“This was never supposed to be a restaurant. My definition of helping meant doing what felt most natural when comfort was in order—feed those in need.”
4 Rivers Smokehouse began with the launch of the “Barbecue Ministry” in 2004, when John hosted a cookout fundraiser to support a local family whose young daughter was battling cancer. This one event resulted in a passion for supporting local schools, churches, and charitable organizations, and a few years later, smoking thousands of pounds of meat out of a garage just wouldn’t cut it anymore.
After trials, tribulations, and a whole lot of burnt ends, we finally flipped that “Hot Brisket Now” sign on in October of 2009. Within the first hour, a line had formed out the door…and then around the corner.
Today, we have several locations across the state of Florida, with plans for continued expansion and more than 1,000 amazing folks on our 4 Rivers team. Most importantly, the Barbecue Ministry remains our foundation and focus, and will until the cows come home.