Brio Tuscan Grille coming to Mall at University Town Center

Brio Tuscan Grille coming to Sarasota Mall at UTC; opening now less than a year away

cschelle@bradenton.comOctober 17, 2013 

UNIVERSITY PARK -- The Mall at University Town Center is now 11 months and 29 days away, and shoppers can expect a taste of Tuscany on the first day.

Brio Tuscan Grille, based in Columbus, Ohio, plans to build an Italian restaurant inside the mall, according to a permit application filed with Sarasota County. The restaurant will create as many as 130 jobs, the company estimates.

The restaurant will be part of the $315 million, high-end Mall at UTC that will include 115 stores. The 880,000-square-foot mall is managed by Michigan-based Taubman Centers through a partnership with Benderson Development, and is due to open Oct. 16, 2014.

Brio Tuscan Grille is part of a restaurant group in Ohio that also includes Bravo!, Cucina Italian and Bon Vie Bistro. Brio -- Italian for "lively or "full of life" -- is described as an upscale, affordable casual dining restaurant offering lunch and dinner.

"Taubman develops first-class malls and retail destinations. We believe UTC has some of the best retail and restaurant offerings in the market and are delighted to be a part of it," said Saed Mohseni, chief executive officer of Bravo Brio Restaurant Group. "Our internal research also shows that the Sarasota market demographic aligns nicely with the Brio concept and is a market we have desired to be a part of for some time."

Brio's menu offers northern Italian cuisine including bruschetta, flatbreads, pasta, steaks, seafood, soups, salads and more. The restaurant also offers a gluten-free menu and a loyalty program called MyBrio Rewards that can be accessed through Apple and Android apps.

The restaurant is tabbed for $990,000 in construction costs. Operators filed for a building permit Sept. 6 with Sarasota County. That permit is undergoing additional review before it will be granted. The restaurant wants approval for two outdoor gas fire pits, so it must provide additional information to the fire marshal, said Mary Beth Humphreys with Sarasota County's Planning and Development Services.

The restaurant will seat 204 diners inside and 82 on the 3,297-square-foot outdoor patio, and will have 7,444 square feet of space inside, including semi-private event space.

The Tuscan feel will be carried out through window treatments, draperies and stucco finish, according to the plans.

About 100 to 130 full- and part-time jobs will be created at the restaurant. Hiring is expected to start several months before the opening, said Duree Ross, a Florida-based spokeswoman for Brio.

The publicly traded company (NASDAQ: BRBG) features 90 corporate-owned restaurants in 30 states and was started in 1999. Each Brio has similar treatments, but the design is tweaked at each location to make them special, Ross said. The University Park restaurant will resemble one that recently opened in Jacksonville featuring a fire pit.

Brio will be located along a row of restaurants at the mall's west entrance facing Cattlemen Road near Saks Fifth Avenue, according to the mall's plans.

The restaurant has 11 locations in Florida, including one at International Plaza in Tampa and Mall at Millenia in Orlando, which are also Taubman ventures.

"They are a popular Italian dining favorite," said Karen Mac Donald, spokeswoman for Taubman. "We have 12 locations open and coming soon at our other shopping centers across the country -- a great place for lunch or dinner, and casual or fine dining."

This is the second confirmed restaurant for the Mall at UTC. Seasons 52, a Darden Restaurants brand, announced in September it would open a new restaurant at the mall, which has space for four more restaurants yet to be announced, according to the plans.

Mall anchors include Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard's, plus an additional anchor to be named later.

Anticipation continues to build for the mall now that it's less than a year from opening. The mall website, themallatuniversitytowncenter.com, is ticking down the seconds to the opening.

"I'm here on the job site and you can really see the facility coming together into a shopping center," Mall at UTC General Manager Octavio Ortiz said.

The mall's team is working on creating special events for the opening as well as more store announcements in the coming months.

After the doors open, the activity won't stop around the mall property. Benderson Development owns pad sites between Cattlemen Road and the mall parking lot where construction staging and trailers sit today, and more commercial and professional buildings are planned by Benderson between Interstate 75 and an extended DeSoto Road that will loop around the rear of the mall from the Cattlemen-DeSoto roundabout and connect at the northern entrance of the mall on Cattleman Road across from Super Target.

Benderson Development officials have told the Bradenton Herald work on filling those spaces will not start until the mall has completed signing its tenants.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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