Construction is set to begin in about a year on a TJ Ribs restaurant in Carencro, the first of several locations the Baton Rouge-based chain hopes to build around Louisiana.

The restaurant will be located on the Interstate 49 Frontage Road, near Prejean’s Restaurant, said Todd McKearn, director of concept development for TJ Ribs. The goal is to open the restaurant in early 2019.

TJ Ribs recently remodeled its flagship South Acadian Thruway restaurant and installed a cochon de lait pit where a pig is roasted daily. That concept will be the model for the Carencro location and future locations, McKearn said.

One unique feature the Carencro restaurant will have that none of the three Baton Rouge-area TJ Ribs offer will be an outdoor space with a cooking area, tables and a playground. These spaces can be used to host events, such as birthdays, anniversaries or wedding showers. “You’ll have a nice indoor and a nice outdoor space,” he said.

The restaurant will be about 7,500 to 8,000 square feet, with 100 to 120 employees. McKearn said the menu will be similar to the Acadian, Siegen and Prairieville restaurants.

TJ Ribs has been open since 1986. Over the years, the restaurant has become a landmark for people across Louisiana who are visiting Baton Rouge. That’s what’s led the company to eye building additional locations.

People in Lafayette are already familiar with the restaurant because they stopped in for a meal on the way to a football game or a business meeting or they ate there with their family while they were students at LSU or Southern University, McKearn said. “There are already people from Lafayette who come here regularly for meals,” he said.

Once the Carencro restaurant is open, the company is looking at building TJ Ribs locations in Lake Charles, Alexandria and Shreveport. McKearn said he thinks the state can support “six or seven” TJ Ribs locations.

A model for the future growth of TJ Ribs is Montana's Rib & Chop House, which has 10 locations in Montana, Wyoming and Utah and is also owned by Burke Moran. The chain has concentrated on smaller cities in the Mountain West, such as Sheridan, Wyoming; St. George, Utah, and Livingston, Montana. The small-city approach is why TJ Ribs has no plans to open a New Orleans-area restaurant, McKearn said.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.