To be the gold standard of family dining:
- Operating with integrity and kindness rooted in our Christian values.
- Serving each other so we can best serve our guests.
- Providing modern comfort food in a clean, family friendly environment.
- Supporting individuals, with opportunities from great first jobs to rewarding careers.
Company History and Culture
Roger Smith founded Steer House Restaurants in 1972. His vision was a place where you get a made-to-order hot entrée and unlimited helpings of country sides, at a price low enough to visit daily if you wished. Smith grew the restaurant to a multi-state chain, then sold Steer House in 1979. Under the new ownership, restaurants began failing quickly. He bought back the Virginia territory and reopened as Country Cookin in 1981.
Smith passed away in 1998, but Country Cookin continues to operate on his guiding principles: treat people right, keep the price point low, and serve all-you-can-eat portions of good country food. After Smith’s death, the company was led by David Preston as president. In 2019, Preston’s role changed to Chairman of the Board and Tom Dodson was promoted to President. Country Cookin currently has thirteen locations throughout Virginia.
The company believes strongly in community involvement and the importance of family. Country Cookin has awarded $240,000 in employee scholarships since 1998, with $15,000 awarded in 2018. Annual fundraisers support No Kid Hungry (the official corporate charity), as well as the scholarship fund. They support local communities by providing “Star Student” free kids’ meal awards and easy fundraiser nights for churches and schools.
There is a strong culture of promotion from within, with many members of the management team starting as servers, cooks, or dishwashers. Country Cookin is a place where many employees choose to stay long term. General Managers average 15 years of service and the corporate leadership team has a combined tenure of 200 years.
David Preston, Chairman of the Board
David Preston began employment at Steer House in 1973 as a dishwasher. After Smith recognized his leadership potential, Preston was promoted to hourly manager in 1975, Assistant Manager in 1976, and a General Manager/New Unit Opening Manager in 1977. He continued to be promoted regularly, serving as the Area Supervisor for Northern Virginia in 1979 and Virginia State Manager in 1980. When Roger Smith reopened the company as Country Cookin in 1981, Preston served as General Manager of the new company, working daily with Smith to turn around the struggling brand and establish it on the path to success. Preston was named Country Cookin President in 1985 and served in that role until 2019, when he transitioned to his current role as Chairman of the Board. Active in his church and community, Preston serves as chairman of the Salem City School Board.
Tom Dodson, President
Tom Dodson started at Country Cookin as a 16 year old dishwasher in 1986. He grew up eating at the Culpeper Country Cookin and is the youngest of four siblings who all worked at the restaurant during high school. Initially he agreed to an hourly management job while in college as a resume builder, but realized college wasn’t for him and was promoted into management full time as an Assistant Manager in 1988. He was promoted to General Manager of the Harrisonburg location in 1991 and to District Manager in 1996. He was promoted to Vice President in 2007. He was named Country Cookin President in 2019. Dodson serves as Vice President of the Blue Ridge CASA for Children Board of Directors and on the personnel and finance committees of his church.
For Media Inquiries or other high-resolution logo and images, please contact Angie Covington, Marketing Director at the corporate office: 540-774-0613.