Owner Dennis Forte credits The Hog Pen's 21 years in business to consistency
“Success follows consistency.”
When Dennis Forte and his wife, Mavis, opened The Hog Pen Bar-B-Q at 1265 Sutton Street in 1999, there were few – if any – Black-owned restaurants in Conway.
“I had always wanted to open a restaurant because there weren’t many barbecue restaurants in town 20 years ago,” Dennis said. “I also thought doing so would inspire Black children in Conway and show them that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Dennis has done more than set an example for the next generation. The Hog Pen has provided job opportunities for several young people, many of whom still work at the restaurant. Dennis has a heart for helping those who are just getting started – whether they’re working their first job or venturing into entrepreneurship.
He said that although he and his wife had been self-employed for 23 years prior to opening The Hog Pen, owning a restaurant was new territory. Dennis has learned many lessons along the way and wants to serve as a resource for restaurant owners just getting started.
“It takes a whole lot of hard work. In the restaurant business, you have to think upside down. After being in the business for more than 20 years, I am open to sharing what I’ve learned with new restaurant owners.”
Dennis credits consistency with the success of his restaurant. He and his staff religiously follow The Hog Pen’s recipes when preparing homemade sides, such as coleslaw and baked beans; special seasonings, such as the coating for the fried fish and the rub for the ribs; and an assortment of made-from-scratch cakes. Dennis cooks the meats himself.
“I’ve been cooking meats all these years, and I know what it’s supposed to look like and taste like. Our food is made fresh every day, and our team cooks the other items in stages, making sure to follow our recipes so people know what to expect whenever they come here. Success follows consistency.”
Dennis recommends new customers start with the rib and fish combo. He plans to add new items to the menu soon, including a Cajun sausage made in house and some more side items.
“You’ll have to come by and try it.”
The Conway Convention & Visitors Bureau is celebrating the inaugural Conway Black Restaurant Week during the last week of Black History Month. From February 21-27, 2021, the Conway CVB will bring attention to Conway's Black-owned restaurants and introduce you to some of the people behind them.