A Southern California-based fast-casual seafood concept will open the first of 40 potential Florida locations in Orlando this October.
Slapfishoffers a rotating menu of made-to-order fish sandwiches, tacos and lobster rolls, as well as salads, chowders and entrees. The brand currently has 14 units open, with over 150 more locations in development both domestically and internationally.
Vice President of Operations Les Hatter told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday the company has signed its first lease at Waterford Lakes Town Center, on Alafaya Trail just off the S.R. 408 expressway. Tom Heer at LandQwest Commercial is working with Slapfish on siting.
"Our game plan is to get the first one up and running," Hatter said. "We'll probably open our second store in Orlando and then branch out to Tampa and Miami. If there's something in the tourist area or near Disney, that could be very attractive."
Hatter, along with business partners Brandon and Charles Bengel, plan to open 10 Slapfish restaurants in Florida over the next five years, and 40 locations total. The trio brings decades of experience expanding QSR concepts to new Florida markets.
"We're also franchisees for Five Guys (Burgers and Fries)," Hatter said. "We have 20 locations in Central Florida."
He said Orlando's craft-burger competition forced the partners to look for another fast-casual concept they could grow, and they felt fast-casual seafood was an untapped market.
"The business model doesn't really have competition right now," Hatter said. "We were sitting on Slapfish for a while and watching it grow out in Utah. We went out to Huntington Beach, where it's based, and toured the stores out there. Then we flew out to Utah a couple of times prior to signing our agreement."
The concept and menu was created by Chef Andrew Gruel, but Hatter said they plan to introduce menu items using Florida seafood.
"If sustainable grouper is available and we can get it from our fisheries, we'll definitely add that to the menu," he said. "I'd also love to be able to have Stone Crab Claws when they're in season."
Most items are priced between $8 and $12, with lobster rolls at market price. "It's fast-casual, but we're going to try to add some hints of full service to it," Hatter said.