For shoppers at The Mall at University Town Center and surrounding retail stores, there is no shortage of dining options. On Monday, fast-casual chain Newk’s Eatery opened its doors to an 80-person crowd at 5405 University Parkway.
Newk’s Eatery occupies 4,500 square feet in a new building at the Benderson Development Co.-owned Square at University Town Center shopping plaza. Oak & Stone, a pizzeria and self-serve beer bar, and Keke’s Breakfast Cafe, an Orlando-based daytime restaurant, both opened this year in the same building that houses Newk’s.
The Square at UTC Newk’s is the chain’s first location in Sarasota and employs about 80 people.
The first Newk’s in the Tampa Bay area debuted in Clearwater this past December and is operated by the Aeolus Group, a local franchise team with more than 10 years of industry experience, according to a Newk’s release. The Aeolus Group plans to franchise 11 Newk’s Eateries in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Lakeland and Clearwater markets during the next several years.
$7 to $9 Price point Newk’s strives to provide customers
“Newk’s Eatery is a brand that will speak to Sarasota and Tampa Bay area diners with its incredibly fresh ingredients, made-from-scratch meals and a setting that feels like home,” Aeolus Group Area Director David Baker said in a statement. “Everything we do can be summarized into two words: fresh and flavorful. That’s what we’re all about. Handmade, imported, house-roasted, garden fresh. Those are the kinds of words you’ll hear tossed around our kitchen because we want our guests to expect the exceptional.”
Customers showed up before the 11 a.m. opening on Monday to be one of the first 100 guests at Newk’s. The first 50 people who arrived received a $100 gift card and a swag bag. The next 50 received the swag bag. All 100 were the first in Sarasota to try the sandwiches, salads, pizzas, macaroni and cheese and soup served at Newk’s. Indoor dining for 140 people and patio seating for 50, take-out and catering services are available.
Everything we do can be summarized into two words: fresh and flavorful. That’s what we’re all about.
David Baker, Newk’s franchisee
Sarasota native and resident Naomi Whitley lived in Tallahassee for a couple of years, and visited three different Newk’s locations while there. She was impressed with the consistency of the food and the friendliness of Newk’s staff. Whitley stopped by Newk’s in Sarasota on Monday to pick up lunch for herself and her mom, who works at a nearby web-based performance marketing firm.
“I wanted to see if I could be one of the first 50,” she said. Whitley got the 53rd spot in line. “It’s kind of like Black Friday for food. And either way, I knew I liked Newk’s.”
She ordered the Debra pizza based on a staff recommendation. It’s topped with sliced flame-grilled chicken breast, Roma tomatoes, house-shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese over basil pesto sauce. She also took an order of macaroni and cheese and a Greek salad to split with her mom.
Founded in 2004 by Don Newcomb, Debra Bryson and Chris Newcomb, Newk’s Eatery is based in Jackson, Miss., and has more than 100 locations in 13 U.S. states.
If you go
Here’s what you need to know if you go to Newk’s Eatery:
- Address: 5405 University Parkway, Unit 110
- Phone number: 941-351-1210
- Prices: $6 to $13 for a variety of sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, pizzas and salads. Kid’s menu ranges from $3.75 to $5.50. See the full menu online at https://www.newks.com/menu/menu/featured-items/
- Website: www.newks.com
- Open hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week
- Inspection information: The Sarasota Newk’s Eatery passed its first inspection with zero violations on Aug. 30. Search for Newk’s inspection report and inspection reports for any Manatee-Sarasota restaurants at dine.bradenton.com