February 12, 2016 The economic rebound in Florida has some staying power, according to a Midwest restaurant executive with big growth plans in the state.
Gary Callicoat, president and CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based Rusty Bucket, says Florida is perfect for the neighborhood-tavern chain, which aims to position itself a few steps above bigger chains like Fridays and Chili’s. Rusty Bucket has 23 locations in five states, including one in Naples. The newest location is in Sarasota, where it opened a restaurant across the street from the Mall at the University Town Center last month. (Callicoat says he passed at a chance to be in the mall, which opened in October 2014, and instead went for a higher visibility location at the District at University Town Center.)
“Affluent suburbs are the best place for us,” Callicoat tells Coffee Talk. “I think Florida is a good market for us. I like it here a lot. We will continue to look around here.”
That includes a possible location in Fort Myers, and maybe Orlando. Callicoat says if the Sarasota store meets or exceeds projections, the chain would even look into a second store for the area. Rusty Bucket plans to open three more restaurants this year and up to four next year, says Callicoat. One of the locations scheduled for a 2016 opening is in Doral, outside Miami.
The model at Rusty Bucket, a Nation’s Restaurant News Breakout Brand in 2014, is to mix chain uniformity with a pub-down-the-street vibe. Callicoat says that concept does well in areas with a high concentration of active families and baby boomers. “We want to be a place where soccer moms are comfortable and dads can come in and watch a game,” says Callicoat. “I don’t think anybody really does what we do.”