Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar announced a new multi-unit signed franchise agreement in Florida. The six-unit deal will bring Walk-On’s locations to the greater Tampa area over the next five years. The brand has gained a loyal following for employing the go-getter spirit of a walk-on athlete while providing superior service and All-American menu items with a taste of Louisiana.
Behind this development deal is owner and operator, Mike Lester. As a veteran in the restaurant industry, Lester started his career quite humbly as a dishwasher when he was just 14 years-old. He worked his way through high school and college in nearly every position in various restaurants. Today, Lester is a dynamic leader and accomplished restaurant operations executive with more than 30 years of experience, most recently serving as the CEO and co-owner of Walking Tall Brands, LLC and formerly as the president of The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc. Ready to give into his entrepreneurial spirit, Lester was determined to transition to the role of an owner and developer with a quality brand like Walk-On’s. He’s currently in site selection and aims to debut the first of his six restaurants to the community in 2020.
“As a Tampa resident and restaurant industry veteran, I immediately became a fan of Walk-On’s and wanted to find a way to bring more locations to serve our area,” says Lester. “In the past, I’ve worked with some outstanding restaurant companies and leaders. But now, I will be giving into my previously repressed entrepreneurial spirit and transition to become a franchise owner and developer of Walk-On’s, and I couldn’t be more excited. With my experience as a franchisor, I knew exactly what I was looking for as a franchisee. With Walk-On’s, I found an organization with a strong culture, solid systems, and a strong business model with a talented support team.”
This development push along the Gulf Coast of Central Florida further ignites Walk-On’s aggressive expansion throughout the state. There are currently 25 restaurants sold and in development that will open over the next five years, two currently open in Fort Lauderdale and Wesley Chapel, and four under construction in Orlando, Tallahassee, Kendall, and Kissimmee. Additional target markets throughout the state include Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Melbourne, Miami, Naples, Pensacola, Sarasota, and West Palm Beach.
Walk-On’s diverse menu has offerings ranging from unique twists on game day staples – such as a Smoked Gouda Turkey Burger, Boom Boom Shrimp PoBoy, and Cajundillas, to upscale takes on Louisiana mainstays – such as Crawfish Etou-Ways, Mardi Gras Mahi, and Duck and Andouille Gumbo. Its innovative menu provides vast and flavorful dishes for every guest.
Whether it be for date night, a drink, girl’s night out or a family dinner, Walk-On’s is the place for everyone – because everyone needs a little playing time. Dishes are made from scratch using fresh ingredients to bring its savory cuisine to life. Its game day atmosphere paired with a true southern hospitality makes it a perfect dining destination for everyone. As stated by co-owner and NFL superstar Drew Brees, Walk-On’s is “a great place to bring my family, teammates and business colleagues,” and we’re excited to help “expand the brand across the nation.” Today, with over 150 locations in development across 15 states, the brand is on track for strategic franchise expansion nationwide.
“Growing our presence in Florida is an exciting chapter for our growth story as we break into untapped markets with new franchise partners,” says Walk-On’s president & COO, Scott Taylor. “Our development team is poised for success and our initial locations throughout the state will no doubt bring success to enthusiastic entrepreneurs ready to join our team. With a proven business model, positive business environment, and open real estate market, Florida is an obvious and attractive area for Walk-On’s continued growth.”
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