614-416-7739

 

An Ohio fast-casual restaurant chain that may be a familiar name to Central Floridians is working on plans for a comeback.

Columbus, Ohio-based Donatos Pizza signed a franchise agreement with Jacksonville-based Quick Family & Associates Holding Co. Inc. to develop five restaurants in metro Orlando, bringing roughly 150 jobs to the market. No leases have been signed, but the group has identified possible markets as Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Oviedo and Winter Park, said a news release. The franchise group expects to sign its first lease sometime in this year’s first quarter with an opening set for summer/fall, a company spokesman told Orlando Business Journal.

Family-owned Donatos — which had a short stint of being owned by McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) before being sold back to its founders in 2003 — had seven Central Florida locations before pulling out of the Orlando market in 2008, as OBJ previously reported. The chain now has 161 locations in 10 states and is known for its thin-crust pizzas in four sizes with smoked provolone and edge-to-edge toppings. The chain’s best-known pizza is a large topped with 100 pieces of pepperoni. It offers more than 10 signature pizzas or customizable pies with a choice of 26 toppings, as well as gluten-free pizzas, salads, oven-baked subs or chicken wings.

Meanwhile, the deal with Quick Family & Associates was one of three franchise agreements for the development of a total of 13 Sunshine State restaurants, including three in Jacksonville and five in Manatee and Sarasota counties. The restaurants average about 2,200 square feet with 20-25 seats. Along with a $30,000 franchise fee, the initial investment to own and operate a Donatos restaurant ranges from $360,360 to $697,400.

The brand continues to draw franchise interest due, in part, to its brand refresh and new restaurant design, said Jeff Baldwin, the chain’s vice president of development and franchising. The average annual sales volume per store nationwide exceeds $1 million.

“This surge in franchise development is a reflection of the brand’s aggressive growth strategy and is fueled by the ongoing success Donatos has experienced over the past several years. … With these three groups, we have the opportunity to bring Donatos to previously untouched markets in Florida.”

New restaurants bring more employment opportunities to the region, including hospitality jobs, as well as temporary construction jobs for new buildings or interior buildout. They also help landlords lease up shopping centers and provide an amenity for existing residents and workers in the area, helping make developing areas more desirable.

Plus, Orlando ranked No. 17 in the nation among the best cities to start a restaurant by Bid-On-Equipment based on factors including annual restaurant sales per capita (metro Orlando reported $4,056), restaurants per capita (324 in Orlando), number of restaurant industry workers per capita (6,969 locally) and the metro area’s median income ($64,174).