Select Sevier County restaurants to close one day a week due impacts of COVID-19

J.O.E. and Pop's Sub Shoppe is one of the Johnson Family of Restaurants many popular restaurants (photo by Morgan Overholt/

J.O.E. and Pop's Sub Shoppe is one of the Johnson Family of Restaurants many popular restaurants (photo by Morgan Overholt/

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UPDATE: The amended hours have since been extended thru October 5, 2020.

Johnson Family of Restaurants, who owns and operates several popular Sevier County restaurants in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville, announced in a statement published earlier today, that they will be closing each of their restaurants one day per week in an effort to give their employees a well-deserved break.

The announcement was made in response to the increasing physical and mental demands on restaurant employees due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Despite continuing to maintain a 50% reduced capacity, business is booming as crowds wait in line to dine at many of the restaurant group’s popular locations. 

Between long lines, increased sanitation measures and East Tennessee’s uniquely grueling humid summer heat, increased demands have reportedly left employees feeling drained. 

“If you have ever worked in the service industry, you know that it’s hard work in the best of times. During a global pandemic, it is even more stressful,” Johnson Family of Restaurants writes on a Facebook post dated June 30. “From dealing with social distancing guidelines to increased foot traffic inside the restaurants to wearing a face mask for your whole shift in the middle of summer, it can be exhausting both mentally and physically.”

The weekly closures will begin July 6th, and continue through the remainder of the month. The new policy will guarantee that each employee will have at least two days off per week. 

“We hope you understand, we would rather trade that one day’s business in order to help protect our employees’ mental and physical health.”

Johnson Family of Restaurants plans on re-evaluating this new policy in 3 weeks, at the end of July, and decide whether or not they will extend the new schedule.

UPDATE: The amended hours have since been extended thru October 5, 2020.

Affected restaurants include: Big Daddy’s Pizzeria, Alamo Steakhouse, Bennett’s Pit BBQ, Mama’s Farmhouse, J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe and Mama’s Chicken Kitchen. 

The company Facebook page continues to receive an outpour of love and support from locals and fans of their restaurant in response to the announcement. Hundreds of commenters are offering their words of praise to a company who clearly has its heart in the right place.

“I love this and that you care enough about your employees! Speaks volumes about your company!” writes Stacey Kearney in a Facebook post.

“That’s awesome that you care about your employees mental health. We love your restaurants and visit them EVERY time we come to the Smokies,” says Sheena VanSandt on the same thread.

Johnson City Family of Restaurants also owns Maddog’s Creamery and Donuts, which will remain on their regular schedule at this time.

The updated restaurant schedule is as follows:

Closed Every Tuesday (July 7, 14, 21, 28)

Big Daddy’s Pizzeria – Pigeon Forge

Alamo Steakhouse – Pigeon Forge

Bennett’s Pit BBQ – Gatlinburg

Closed Every Wednesday (July 8, 15, 22, 29)

Bennett’s Pit BBQ – Pigeon Forge

Alamo Steakhouse – Gatlinburg

Mama’s Farmhouse – Pigeon Forge

Big Daddy’s Pizzeria – Gatlinburg

Closed Every Thursday (July 9, 16, 23, 30)

J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe – Gatlinburg

Mama’s Chicken Kitchen – Gatlinburg

Big Daddy’s Pizzeria – Sevierville

About Johnson Family of Restaurants

The Johnson Family opened their first location, Bennett’s Pit BBQ in 1991 in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Since then, they’ve grown their local restaurant empire to include six unique concepts in 11 locations throughout Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg.

Their family of restaurants are among some of the most popular in the area and adored by both visitors and locals alike.

Every single one of their locations regularly maintains a 4+ star review on Google, which in a heavily trafficked tourist town, is quite the impressive feat.

Learn more about Johnson Family of Restaurants, and their multiple concepts and locations on their website

Visit the CDC website and the Tennessee Department of Health website for the latest information about the coronavirus. 

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