National food chains licking lips over Fla. sites

cschelle@bradenton.comMay 19, 2014 


LongHorn Steakhouse, 4502 14th St. W., is one of two restaurants in Bradenton set to open in the new year. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald


LAS VEGAS -- Several retail and restaurant chains could expand into Florida this year for the right deal.

A summer Retail & Restaurant Expansion Guide published by Cassidy Turley shows what mainstay companies are looking to do and names up-and-coming restaurants and stores ready to grow.

As much as mom-and-pop restaurants, Florida is a breeding ground for chain restaurants. Companies such as Hooter's, Outback, Bonefish Grill, Red Lobster, First Watch and PDQ started here before going national.

Here is a rundown in alphabetical order of restaurant plans for Florida.

• Burger 21. Founded by Melting Post owners, it's a new burger concept with 12 locations plus 18 franchise sites, including several in Florida. Sarasota Melting Pot franchise owners Barry Berkowitz and Brian Marshall signed on to develop a Sarasota location but so far no movement.

• Chuck's Steakhouse. The Fort Lauderdale steakhouse has been around since 1959 and opened one new location last year bringing its total up to 13.

• Chuy's Tex-Mex. The chain has 50 locations with three more planned this year. It wants "strong growth" in Florida as it eyes California, Indiana and Virginia.

• The Counter Burger. Based in Culver City, Calif., this family restaurant known for custom burgers serves about 100. It plans 15 locations this year. It has locations in Aventura, Miami International Airport and Naples.

• Elevation Burger. The Arlington, Va., company does fast casual burgers in shopping centers with 46 restaurants so far and 15 more planned this year, including Florida. Its only Sunshine State location now is Miami Lakes.

• F20. Short for Fresh To Order, this new restaurant has 11 locations in Georgia and Tennessee with two planned this year in Florida and North Carolina. Its first Florida location is now open in Waterford Lakes east of Orlando.

• Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. Based in Charlotte, N.C., this restaurant has 36 locations since starting in 2000. The company recently expanded into Florida and plans to open 10 sites this year. They seat around 200 and the average per-person check is $10 to $30.

• Flame Broiler. Its new Orlando restaurant is its third Florida locations, with about 150 restaurants around the country and plans for three new locations this year. Two other Florida locations are in Jacksonville.

• Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill. Based in Centennial, Colo., this Mediterranean restaurant has 30 locations with 20 more planned this year. Its first Florida location opened in November in Boca Raton with plans for Miami-Dade and Broward counties so far.

• Girraffas. Making the jump from Brazil, the grilled burgers and steak restaurant is going global. It opened its first U.S. locations in Fort Lauderdale a few years ago and added a second location there and another in Coral Springs.

• Grimaldi's Pizzeria. The brick-oven pizza joint already has three locations in Tampa Bay and the Scottsdale, Ariz., company wants to add five locations this year to its list of 31 established locations.

• Hot Head Burritos. The Kettering, Ohio, burrito joint has opened 58 locations with 10 planned in the coming year. Its only Florida location is in Mary Esther.

• Leoni's Pizzeria. They're small, but the Fort Myers company has big ambitions. They have a location in Naples and recently entered North Carolina. They've been around since 1956. What took so long?

• Lime Fresh Mexican Grill. Based in Maryville, Tenn., the chain already has several Florida locations including St. Petersburg and Tampa though they only have 28 locations in the United States.

• Mooyah Burger & Fries. This new company wants to open 60 locations in the next 12 months, including Florida, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. It plans 450 restaurants in 10 years.

• Nature's Table Café. Based in Orlando, the fast casual chain has been in business since 1978 and recently moved into our nation's capital. Two new locations are planned this year.

• Pizza Patron. The cheeky Dallas-based company makes headlines in addition to pies. The company's Spanish language ad was banned from radio networks in the Dallas market because -- they weren't in English. Pizza Patron has 105 locations with plans for 25 more this year.

• RedBrick Pizza. The brick-oven pizza company will cook your pizza in three minutes. Based in California, RedBrick is already fired up in Naples, Destin and Panama City Beach.

• Shula Burger. With five restaurants so far, legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula wants to grow beyond Florida and into major metro areas. The Shula restaurants are based in Fort Lauderdale and its only Gulf Coast location is inside Tampa International Airport.

• The Tin Fish. The fast casual seafood restaurant known for localizing its menus has 12 locations with two planned this year. It wants to grow in Florida, California, Indiana and Minnesota. They have locations in Okeechobee, two in Port St. Lucie and another in West Palm Beach.

• YaYa's Flame Broiled Chicken. Has 14 locations and plans for two new restaurants in coming years and looks to grow in Florida and Michigan. YaYa's is in Clearwater and St. Petersburg so far in the Sunshine State.

• Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar. The Arizona-based burger restaurant has three locations planned this year, including one at the Mall at University Town Center, and wants to expand in South Florida. Zinburger has 45 restaurants nationwide.

Charles Schelle, herald business reporter, can be reached a

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