Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel
Ricardo Ramirez-Buxeda / Orlando Sentinel
Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda / Orlando Sentinel
Provided by White Castle
Orlando’s first White Castle has been so successful since its opening in 2021 that the 4,567 square-foot restaurant — the biggest of its kind in the world — needs even more space to feed customers.
The fast food hamburger chain is planning this fall to launch a takeout-only concept called Crave & Go in a storefront location behind the existing White Castle on Daryl Carter Parkway in O-Town West Village.
“It really is basically an expansion across the parking lot,” the company’s vice president Jamie Richardson told GrowthSpotter. “The crave is so big that the building we dedicated to it, thinking that would sustain us, is not enough.”
With 350 locations worldwide, this would be the Ohio-based company’s first Crave & Go model, designed to handle delivery and take-out orders only. It would cater to the growing number of customers who are ordering by App, Richardson said.
This Crave & Go “is a big experiment for us,” Richardson added. “But we’ve been fortified and had our positive feelings about Central Florida reinforced in a big way so this is what we are going to do.”
Anticipating the opening of the Crave & Go, White Castle has closed its downtown Orlando virtual kitchen on Dollins Avenue.
“Just timing-wise, it made sense,” Richardson said. “We decided to press pause over there and put our energy and resources into Crave & Go.”
Meanwhile, the chain is looking to add more of its standard restaurants across the Orlando area.
At the Orange County Convention Center this week, Brian Walkerly, White Castle’s director of real estate and business development, told a crowd at the ICSC @ Florida conference about plans to expand in Central Florida.
He also mentioned his initial trepidation when the first Orlando restaurant opened.
The night before, he couldn’t sleep.
“I was up half the night when we opened,” he said during a panel discussion in front of a large crowd at the ICSC @ Florida convention this week. “I was wondering ‘Is this really going to work?”
His doubts were quickly cast aside. When Florida’s first White Castle opened its doors on May 3, 2021, customers flocked.
Some camped out overnight. Others waited in long lines — with cars stretching a mile from the drive-through out onto the main road within The Village at O-Town West.
“It was a five-hour wait for a burger at the drive-through and inside,” Walkerly said. “The crave is a powerful thing. We have loyal customers.”
With that success, “We are looking at adding a few more units here in town,” he said.
The company has not yet pinpointed where in Orlando residents and tourists can expect to see a White Castle appear. Walkerly described the chain as “the tortoise and not the hare” when it comes to expansion opportunities.
“We are very deliberate and purposeful,” added Richardson in a phone call. “We’d rather wait an extra six months or a year or whatever it takes to find the right site, but we definitely are looking (in Orlando). That is in the plans.”
He added, “We know there are a lot of people there who love us, we have a great flagship location that is just booming and at the same time we know that there are a lot of people in Central Florida. But yes, we are looking at Central Florida. It’s not over the next two or three months, but it probably is over the next two to three years. We absolutely want to keep the party in Florida going.”
Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at (407)-800-1161 or dwyatt@GrowthSpotter.com, or tweet me at @DustinWyattGS. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.