2010-03-24 / Business Briefs

Fort Myers restaurant keeps expanding

At a time when economic challenges have caused massive closings and layoffs in the restaurant industry, Fort Myers-based Rib City is experiencing continued growth, without the aid of franchise marketing or advertising.

The majority of the southern-style barbecue chain’s growth is attributed to customers applying to open their own Rib City franchise in their home state, company officials said.

“Normally a chain like Rib City would have more of a regional expansion into surrounding areas and states that should take 10 to 15 years,” said company president Craig Peden. “But instead, we have hopped, skipped and jumped from Washington to Maryland in six short years.”

Rib City, a family owned regional barbecue chain has developed a coast to coast following of its brand and plans to open its first franchise in Maryland, Mr. Peden said.

“I think it’s helped that we are not new to the restaurant business,” Mr. Peden said. “Through my family’s 35 years of experience in both casual and fine dining, we’ve developed a good eye for what appeals to the public. With Rib

City we packaged that into a solid business model others can operate.”

Industry sales for 2009 were projected to be up 1 percent from 2008 according to the National Restaurant Associations’ 2009 Restaurant Industry Forecast. This gain is similar to the 2008 gain of 1.1 percent but well below the average annual increase of 4.8 percent gained between 2002 and 2007.

Another reason for Rib City’s rapid nationwide growth could be due to the franchise model requiring less capital than others, Mr. Peden said.

“We have a good model with a good quality product that some would say is recession proof,” he said. “We are continuing to be approached about future franchise locations every day because of Rib City’s success in other parts of the country.”

Founded in Fort Myers in 1989, there are currently 12 corporate restaurants in Florida and 13 franchise restaurants across the country including Washington, Utah, Colorado, Missouri, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio. The family began offering nationwide franchise opportunities in 2004. 

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