A permanent vacation
In terms of larger market areas, many growing restaurant chains are zeroing in on Florida. The state has built a reputation for pro-business tax policies and while its COVID response has been a source of controversy, restaurants have performed relatively well throughout the pandemic.
The state has long been home to full-service titans like Darden, Bloomin’ Brands, Brinker, The Cheesecake Factory, and more, but it also holds appeal for the next generation of casual-dining players. In addition to Another Broken Egg, fellow breakfast brands First Watch and Keke’s Breakfast Cafe are also based in Florida. And while other growing concepts might not consider relocating their headquarters like Parker Hospitality is, they are planting flags.
It helps, too, that parts of Florida that were once predominately vacation destinations are now welcoming a greater number of permanent residents.
“What used to be off-season, it’s still a little bit less than season, but it’s not like off-season was in 2019. So that means there are more people who have migrated to South Florida at this time, which is making South Florida a real hot market,” says Tony Montero, CEO of Texas-based Hai Hospitality Group, which includes Uchi, Uchiko, Uchiba, and Loro restaurants.
Montero says he can’t base this observation off the company’s numbers since its first Florida location, an Uchi in Miami, didn’t open until earlier this year. But restaurant friends who’ve been long established in Florida have confirmed as much. Having grown up in South Florida himself, Montero also has an innate understanding of how much foot traffic can fluctuate with the seasons.
But non-natives are also privy to this shift. Cameron Mitchell Restaurants will open a new location of its seafood-centric concept, Del Mar, in Naples before year-end.
"Naples has been very strong in their recovery. It is a very popular place for people to live and visit," says vice president of development Steve Weis. "We know that guests of Fifth Avenue in Naples would embrace the Del Mar menu and love the stunning restaurant we are designing."
The restaurant group also has its eye trained on the eastern side of the state for expansion of its various concepts.
The “end of off-season” isn’t limited to just Florida. Another Texas-based concept, Abuelo’s, has had an outpost in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for 16 years but as of late, business hasn’t dropped off at the end of tourist season.
“Myrtle Beach’s year-round population is growing and more and more ‘locals’ are discovering us, which means more people are dining during the week,” says Brian Bell, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Abuelo’s. “We absolutely anticipate restaurant growth, as well as additional businesses outside of the restaurant industry.”
He adds that other factors have also come into play. For one, Southwest Airlines now flies into Myrtle Beach. And since South Carolina COVID restrictions are looser than other parts of the country, more people are choosing to vacation—and work—there. According to MoneyGeek, Myrtle Beach had boosted its leisure and hospitality jobs 126 percent in June 2021 compared to the previous year.
Montero ascribes the steadier business flow to relocation, but he also thinks consumers’ general eagerness to be out and about plays an important part.
“I think there’s a combination of more people moving to those cities—cities where they know they can be outdoors and it’s not going to get cold,” he says. “And then obviously there’s the pent-up demand with guests that are just like, ‘It’s been a year and a half now, and I’m ready to eat some great food and get out in the world a little bit.’”