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4 Rivers Smokehouse

4 Rivers Smokehouse

4 Rivers Smokehouse (4R) is a regional chain of Texas-style barbecue restaurants in Florida, started in 2009 by John Rivers, [1] the chain's owner and head chef. Specializing in brisket and multi-regional BBQ plates and styles, 4R has nine locations throughout Florida, with sister concepts The Sweet Shop and The COOP. [2] Rivers controls the parent company, 4R Restaurant Group LLC, which operates the restaurants and 4R Signature Products line of retail merchandise, and is the author of The Southern Cowboy Cookbook." [4]

4 Rivers Smokehouse
GenreRestaurants, Food Products
HeadquartersWinter Park, Florida,United States
Number of locations
Area served
Key people
John Rivers (Founder, Owner & Head Chef)


John Rivers

Owner and head chef of 4 Rivers Smokehouse and restaurant entrepreneur, John Rivers, is a Jacksonville native and graduate of the Florida State University College of Business.

He spent 20 years in the healthcare industry, leading strategic growth and business development efforts with Johnson & Johnson and American Home Products subsidiary, Sherwood Medical, finally becoming President of CuraScript Specialty Distribution, where he managed a $1.4 billion pharmaceutical operation. [4]

During this time, in 2004, John Rivers launched his "Barbecue Ministry," a philanthropic effort to bring comfort to local organizations, schools, churches, and families in need.

His passion for this cause and love of brisket led him to end his longtime career in healthcare and pursue what would become 4 Rivers Smokehouse, named in honor of his family: Monica (wife), Cameron (daughter), and Jared (son).

John has received national recognition, having cooked at the James Beard House in NYC [5] [6] and participated four consecutive years (2011-2014) in the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival. [7] He was named a Florida finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, [8] and was guest chef at the 2013 and 2014 Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. [9]

Barbecue Ministry

4 Rivers started as John Rivers' “Barbecue Ministry” in 2004, when he hosted a cookout fundraiser to support a local family whose young daughter was battling cancer.

The cause has since grown and remains central to the 4R company mission.

Past and present supported organizations include: Coalition for the Homeless, Arnold Palmer Medical Center,,, and the Florida Hospital Foundation.


The first location in Winter Park opened in 2009, and since then, 4 Rivers has opened several additional locations around Florida, with plans for continued expansion: [1]

  • Winter Park, Florida

  • Winter Garden

  • Longwood

  • Jacksonville

  • Gainesville

  • East Orlando

  • Orange Park

  • Tampa

  • Tallahassee

4 Rivers Smokehouse specializes in Texas-style smoked beef brisket, though pork barbecue has historically been more popular in the Southern region. [1] The menu features other traditional barbecue sides and a cross section of different regional flavors, including: Alabama-style pulled pork, ribs from the Carolinas, Kansas City burnt ends, Georgia-style chicken, and tri-tip from California. [1]

Their brand also offers signature retail products, such as sauces, rubs, apparel, "pitmaster kits," and brisket candles.



Since its opening, 4R has been named "Best Barbecue" on various occasions by *Orlando Sentinel *, [1] [1] Orlando Magazine, [1] [1] *Orlando Weekly *, [1] *Orlando Business Journal *, [1] and Florida Travel + Life Magazine. [1]

The *Orlando Sentinel * called 4 Rivers "one of the most successful restaurant chains in Central Florida" in April, 2014, [19] and it's received multiple Silver Spoon Awards from Orlando Home & Leisure. [2]


***USA Today *** named 4 Rivers Smokehouse among the "Top 10 Best Restaurants in Orlando,"[2] with the "Best Brisket," according to ***Cooking Light ***. [2]

Nation's Restaurant News also recognized 4R as a "Breakout Brand" of 2014.


In 2014, ***Food & Wine *** featured 4 Rivers Smokehouse in its Orlando Travel Guide as "Barbecue Worth the Wait." [2]


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Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linkarticles.orlandosentinel.com"Four Rivers Smokehouse sizzles"
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linkwesh.com"The COOP opens in Winter Park"
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linkamazon.com[1]
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Citation Linkwww.cob.fsu.edu[2]
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linkjamesbeard.org"John Rivers at James Beard House"
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linkthedailycity.com"4Rivers Smokehouse's John Rivers to Cook at James Beard House"
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linksobefest.com"Food Network's Wine & Food Festival"
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linkbizjournals.com"8 local execs among finalists for 2013 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards"
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linkatlfoodandwinefestival.com[3]
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linkbizjournals.com"4 Rivers Smokehouse eyes four new locations in Florida"
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linknrn.comBreakout brands 2014: 4 Rivers Smokehouse
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM
Citation Linkarticles.orlandosentinel.com[4]
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Citation Linkorlandosentinel.com[5]
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Citation Linkorlandomagazine.com[6]
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Citation Linkorlandomagazine.com[7]
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Citation Linkwww2.orlandoweekly.com[8]
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Citation Linkbizjournals.com[9]
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Citation Linkfloridatravellife.comBest Barbecue in Florida
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Citation Linkorlandosentinel.comNew 4 Rivers Smokehouse opens near UCF
Jul 10, 2016, 3:49 AM