BRADENTON -- Chick-fil-A is expanding in Bradenton with plans for a new free-standing restaurant to open in July in Cortez Plaza at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Orlando Avenue, says franchisee Nathan Hoeksema.
What that means for DeSoto Square mall's location is that corporate leadership will take over management of the indoor Chick-fil-A until its lease runs out in about two years. Then a decision will be made about the feasibility of putting the franchise up for sale or discontinuing the location, Hoeksema said.
"Chick-fil-A has been looking for the right property for a few years and apparently they have found one," said the careerlong company man and Bradenton native. "They tore down that building to make room for us."
The new restaurant will include a multilane drive-through service, inside seating and a playground, located just south of the Bank of America in Cortez Plaza. Opening day, tentatively scheduled for July 18, will offer the usual promotions including the free Chick-fil-A #1 Meal for a year. That special draws people to stand in lines around the building in hopes to be among the first hundred patrons.
Current customers of the DeSoto Square mall location liked hearing the news of a newer, free-standing Chick-fil-A.
"I've talked to some of my coworkers and we're actually excited about it," said customer Nicole Johnson, who works near Cortez Plaza.
Having a playground "sounds very fun," said Daviesha Evans.
Said Amber Levita of Bradenton, "It'll be good. I work in Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota, so it's right on my way."
She also frequents the State Road 70 location from her work.
Al Freeman of Parrish currently patronizes the mall Chick-fil-A four or five times a month.
"I think the one on Cortez will be a great idea and I think having a drive-through will be excellent so I don't have to get out of my car and come in like I do now," he said.
Attitudes like these, however, suggest challenges for the corporation in keeping the mall location profitable. According to Hoeksema, if they cannot make it possible for a future franchise owner to profitably run that location, their policy would be to close it at the end of the existing lease. But what the new mall owners do as they make changes to that shopping area will have an impact as well.
"I've been waiting patiently for this location to come out. One of my visions has been to see our Chick-fil-A cow dressed up behind the bulldozer and have a shovel in his hand for the ground-breaking ceremony" planned for March 3, said Hoeksema, who started working for Chick-fil-A at age 16 and became a franchisee at 21.
"I love this town. I have a lot of connections here in town through growing up here, and I obviously have a great relationship here with all of our customers," he said.
Hoeksema said he supports the company's new policy of treating every person with honor, dignity and respect, and to serve great food with genuine hospitality.
"I want to lead by example," he said. "We're a company that serves all of our guests great food in a great environment. We're not about telling somebody they can or can't do something. We want to do the best at what we do and leave everything else to the government."