Atlanta-based restaurant chain Huddle House is seeking end-cap and free-standing locations to enter the Greater Orlando market this year, and is pursuing leads from local retail developers on promising franchisee partners, an executive with the company told GrowthSpotter.
Known for its "round-the-clock" breakfast menu, Huddle House is pursuing 100 new restaurant openings in the next few years in a variety of cities from Texas on eastward, including a target of seven in Orlando.
The brand has 366 locations open nationwide, 10 of which are in northern Florida, with another 38 in development.
The company's expansion is focused through franchising, with only a handful of corporate-owned stores. Its director of real estate is coordinating site selection in Central Florida with Brandon Nocella and J.R. Bradford at Strategic Retail Advisors.
"We invested in analytics tool Buxton last year, which has helped to really narrow down our focus on site selection," said Christina Chambers, vice president of franchise development. "Orlando pops as a market that could easily support seven stores, and exactly where we should have stores based on the market's sales forecast and our typical customer base.
"By year-end we would like to see at least three locations up and going in Orlando. For us, end-caps are the way to get active quickly," she continued. "We're looking now at areas like Winter Park, Winter Springs, Sanford, Apopka, one in Downtown Orlando and another in Orlando south of downtown."
Huddle House's development approach is flexible, including new build-to-suit, retail center infill and existing restaurant site renovations.
Franchisees can purchase 0.75 acre-sites or more, favoring strong corners and high-trafficked intersections, ideally on the "breakfast side" of major roads that see traffic in the morning moving from residential areas toward employment hubs.
The chain will also do end-caps of strip centers, targeting roughly 2,500 square feet with no drive-thru needed, and no other co-tenants that directly compete in dining.
"When we're talking to developers and brokers in a market where we don't have a franchisee lined up yet, like in Orlando, we appreciate if they can share referrals of successful small business owners," Chambers said. "We've done that many times and found successful franchisees."
A new end-cap location can be opened in as little as six months and typically requires a $750,000 investment. New free-standing locations will take a year to build, and usually cost franchisees up to $1.5 million for land acquisition and construction, Chambers added.
Conversion of an existing restaurant runs closer to $400,000 investment, and calls for the same 2,500 square feet of space and at least 40 dedicated parking spaces. A former Pizza Hut in Brooksville is currently being renovated as the company's 10th site in Florida.