“It’s a state of can do, it’s a state of pride, and it really is a state of genuine people. I love Oklahoma.”
An Ardmore native, Hal Smith began his career in the restaurant industry while attending the University of Oklahoma and working at Across the Street Restaurant. As a working partner in Crosstimbers Restaurants, he opened and managed units in Norman and Amarillo, Texas, in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1973, he joined Steak & Ale Restaurant Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pillsbury, as a manager trainee before being named president and COO and ultimately chairman and CEO, as well as a vice president of Pillsbury. His next ventures included roles as president and COO of Chili’s and chairman and CEO of Chi Chi’s Mexican Restaurants.
In 1992, he ventured out on his own and founded Hal Smith Restaurants, a restaurant management company headquartered in Norman. Multiple restaurant concepts followed, including Charleston’s Restaurant, Red Rock Canyon Grill, Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, Krispy Kreme, Ted’s Café Escondido, Louie’s Bar & Grill, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, The Garage, Upper Crust, and Pub W. Today Hal Smith Restaurants operates more than 60 restaurants in seven states, employing more than 6,000.
With his wife Sandy, they founded the Norman Youth Foundation to support Oklahoma youth-oriented charities. Those benefiting include Center for Children and Families, Ally’s House, Coaches for Cancer, WIN Foundation, JD McCarty Center, Thunderbird Clubhouse, and the Bootstrap Program. They also are donors and supporters of OU and OSU, and various other civic groups.
Hal Smith was associated with opening up over 500 restaurants during his 50 year career.
Smith was born and raised in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and graduated from US Grant High School. He attended Central State College (now the University of Central Oklahoma) and the University of Oklahoma.