Manny's Original Chophouse, a Lakeland-based restaurant chain with four locations in Polk County will open its first franchise store in Kissimmee in late November.
An investment group, Cubic Global Investment and Development, bought the former Houlihans restaurant at 8520 W U.S. 192 in May for $1.5 million. Restaurateur Ben Liu, whose company was awarded the first Manny's franchise, is leasing the property and doing a full renovation.
"The goal is to open more locations in Osceola and Orange counties," said Mike Bagdonas, principal with InVenture Group, who brokered the deal and brought all the parties together.
Bagdonas told GrowthSpotter he worked closely with the restaurant group on site selection. He even joined on as lead designer to transform the Mediterranean-style restaurant into a more casual space with an automotive, Route 66 theme.
The job has him scouring the country for vintage road signs, neon and automotive decor. He even brought in a New York City taxicab to park out front.
"The cool thing about Manny's is although it's a chain, the character of the place is as much a draw as the food," Bagdonas said. "It's not a roadhouse. It's not peanuts on the floor and country music."
Founder Manny Nikolaidis opened the first chophouse in Haines City in 2004. The company began offering its franchises in 2014. The website states it is looking for experienced businesspeople with $1 million in liquid cash and "boundless energy and enthusiasm." The initial franchise fee is $25,000 for a 10-year term.
The casual family restaurant specializes in USDA Prime steaks, aged on site, and made-from-scratch sides. The restaurant has a seating capacity of 416.
David Buchheit, executive director of the W192 Development Authority, is a fan of the restaurant and regularly dines at the Haines City location. "This location is close enough that people will be familiar with it from Polk County," he said. "It's a new brand, but it's not new to central Florida. And the nice thing about opening a franchise here is you get to expose your brand to people from all over the world."