Oxford’s Cook Out restaurant thriving after six months

Published 10:59 am Sunday, September 11, 2016

Southeastern fast-food staple Cook Out established its first Mississippi location here in Oxford only six months ago. What was once a combination KFC and Long John Silver’s on Jackson Avenue was transformed into a popular fast-food joint wrapped in red and blue (and an Ole Miss flag outside its entrance).

Founded in 1989 by Morris Reaves in Greensboro, North Carolina, the family-owned business remained in-state for more than two decades. The first out-of-state Cook Out was launched in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the chain continued to expand to Maryland and West Virginia.

Lamarr Parish, general manager of the Oxford location, said that in the six months that the restaurant has been in town, business has been bustling, especially on weekends.

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“Weekends are definitely busy,” Parish said. “Probably one of our busiest, family-oriented days is on Sunday. Chick-fil-a is closed, everybody’s coming from church. They want to get their Sunday ice cream, and we’re a great place to come get shakes.”

With over 40 varieties of milkshakes on hand (from Banana Pudding to Hi-C Punch), Parish is probably right.

Cook Out is recognized for its array of options that come at an affordable price. Parish said the restaurant began as a way to offer areasonable fast-food option in lower- income neighborhoods.

“As of the last five, six years, we’ve gone into college towns,” Parish said. “We can cater to the college student that’s on a budget and can’t afford much (and) can come here and get a burger or some hot dogs, two sides and a drink for dirt cheap.”

Ole Miss sophomore Sarah Hillhouse and junior Ashley Stewart agree.

“You can get two meals for five bucks,” Hillhouse said. “I love it, I come here so much.”

“Whenever we go for food we always say, ‘Cook Out’s cheap and you get a lot with it,’” Stewart added.

For a company that’s become an established brand in the southeast, they maintain a noticeably minimal online presence. In an era when new or expanding companies can utilize social media and the internet to their advantage, Cook Out has remained mostly hands-off.

It wasn’t until 2011 that they started an official company website. The restaurant has always relied mostly on word of mouth.

“Anybody who has been to Cook Out knows what they’re going to get,” Parish said. “We let our work do the talking for us.”

Contacting the corporate Cook Out offices in Greensboro, North Carolina, proved to be even more elusive than their web existence. Inquiries sent via the Cook Out website were not returned and a representative did not respond for comment.

Regardless of how Cook Out operates behind the scenes, with 206 restaurants currently operating and more set to open in the near future, it’s working.