Missouri-based Andy's Frozen Custard has N. International Drive land under contract for its first restaurant in Florida, and has yet to hire a local civil engineer or general contractor, a lead franchisee with the company told GrowthSpotter.
The buyer has gone hard with a non-refundable deposit and should acquire the property in the coming First Quarter 2017, said Eric Reed, CEO and partner in Ranchers Custard LLC, a multi-unit franchisee doing business as Andy's Frozen Custard.
The developer filed a request on Nov. 21 with the City of Orlando to build a new restaurant with drive-thru on 0.84 acres at 5381 International Dr., which is currently surface parking directly east of a Sonic Drive-In.
Andy's first indicated it was pursuing the Central Florida market in April 2015, when it announced the signing of its largest franchise agreement ever for 20 new stores, naming this region among four others of focus for the expansion.
Reed was with Andy's corporate office for 10 years in new store development, before leaving last year to partner with the new multi-unit franchisee Ranchers Custard.
"This will be a land purchase by an individual where we will then operate under a master lease," he said. "When we had the opportunity to acquire franchise territories, Central Florida was one of the first areas we wanted to hit. Any time your first store in the state lands on International Drive that carries a bit of swagger."
Founded in 1986 in Osage Beach, Missouri, Andy's Frozen Custard claims to be "the largest frozen custard-only" concept in the United States, featuring a variety of freshly made custard-based desserts. The company has more than 50 locations open or in development across nine states in the South and Southeast, not including Florida.
The company's targeted site on North I-Drive is surrounded by prominent new developments on that end of the tourism corridor.
Notable projects include a new Hyatt House hotel under construction directly across the street from the Andy's site, more than 200 acres marketed for redevelopment between the Artegon Marketplace and land directly south owned by an Ecuadorian investor, North American Properties' retail, hotel and apartment plans for 16.5 acres on W. Oak Ridge Road, and Fun Spot America's planned long-term park expansion.
"We do feel that portion of I-Drive is on the upswing, and we're glad to be a part of that," Reed said. "We'll be sandwiched between two hot areas from a retail standpoint."
Over the next 90 days, Reed expects his team to complete their due diligence on the site and file development plans with the city.
His group should hire a civil engineer by January, begin considering general contractor options after February, and be under construction some time in the Spring, with an opening 120-150 days later in Summer 2017, Reed said. Kansas City-based Hufft Projects is the company's regular architect.
Most of the Andy's Frozen Custard locations are walk-up stores, though newer models have large glass-enclosed dining rooms. Reed believes the Orlando site will be a hybrid model of 2,200 square feet with collapsible glass around a covered patio space.
The project's total building and occupancy cost should approach $2 million without FF&E, he said.
The prospective land seller is MVP International Properties LLC, made up of Miami-based investors who paid $565,000 in June 2014.
Reed's Ranchers Custard doesn't have any other properties in Central Florida in its development sights at the moment, but would like to have "another couple of stores open within 12 months of the first," he said.
"We have the right of first refusal for some other markets in Florida," Reed continued. "There is corporate interest in co-developing the state as a franchise group."