BRADENTON — Krystal, the fast-food restaurant known for its small square burgers, is expanding its profile in the Tampa Bay region and opening its first eatery in Bradenton.
The 1,500-square-foot restaurant, under construction at 3180 First St., is expected to open Dec. 14.
An estimated 80 to 100 people initially will be hired to open the restaurant, which will have a permanent staff of 30, said Jorge A. Berlingeri, president of Diamante Foods franchise group, which has the Krystal franchise for Tampa and South Florida. The group operates two Krystal restaurants in Tampa, one in Lakeland and one in Fort Lauderdale. He expects the Bradenton restaurant to be extremely busy for the holidays, which is why extra employees are being hired.
The new Krystal will offer dine-in service as well as a drive-through and free Wi-Fi Internet access. Along with the hamburgers steamed with onions, Krystal offers other menu selections such as a chicken filet sandwich, hot dogs and breakfast selections.
Although the economy is still staggering, Berlingeri is upbeat about opening a new restaurant in Bradenton.
“There’s nothing like it out there,” he said of Krystal. “Every day I am in a store, a customer comes in and asks when we are going to open the next Krystal. The product itself is unique. The steaming process makes the burger.”
Diamante Foods bought the franchise in 2002 and opened its first restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Berlingeri admits the poor economy has impacted sales.
“We are affected by the sales, year over year, but we are looking for new properties and are taking advantage of deals that are out there right now,” he said. “We will definitely continue to open restaurants on the West Coast.”
The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company was founded in 1932 and is the oldest quick-service restaurant chain in the South and the second oldest in the United States, according to Krystal’s Web site. It has nearly 385 restaurants throughout the south from Virginia to Texas. The company is privately held and, in the late 1990s, emerged from bankruptcy and is now expanding in Texas, Mississippi and Florida.
“I like the company because they are always coming out with new products and looking for new ideas,” Berlingeri said.
Alan Wright, executive vice president of administration for The Krystal Co., said there will be seven to eight more company-run restaurants open by the end of the year and three new franchise restaurants including Bradenton’s.
“This is a great opportunity to build out Tampa from what it is today,” he said. “Our customers are long term, the attraction to the brand is through the core product.”
The first Krystal was opened in the Depression by two entrepreneurs who theorized that people would patronize a restaurant kept spotlessly clean, where they could get a good meal at a low price.
“This is the present-day version of how we were founded,” Wright said.