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Schlotzsky’s Deli returns to Florida

After pulling back from Florida more than a decade ago, the Schlotzsky’s Deli chain is returning with plans to open new restaurants in the Orlando and Tampa markets, the brand’s chief executive said Friday.

The Florida push is part of the “aggressive growth mode” Schlotzsky’s has embarked on during 2011, Kelly Roddy told Nation’s Restaurant News. The chain has plans to open a new restaurant on a weekly basis in Texas, Denver, Oklahoma and across the southern United States from September to Christmas.

“Schlotzsky’s had grown pretty big in the ’90s and then closed a bunch of stores,” Roddy said. “We then went back and re-branded Schlotzsky’s, and we have a growth strategy to expand from the core of Texas. We are in an aggressive growth mode.

“It’s time to go back in Florida,” he said. “We want to redevelop the Orlando and Tampa markets. We think brands do well in Orlando.”

Schlotzsky’s, which is owned by Atlanta-based Focus Brands, opened two stores in Panama City in Florida’s Panhandle this year and also Gainesville. At one time, Schlotzsky’s had 10 restaurants in the Orlando area, said spokeswoman Jayne Levy. The last one closed in Altamonte Springs in 2001.

The game plan is to open new units from North Florida to South Florida, Roddy said.

Schlotzsky’s, which features sandwiches, pizzas, wraps, soups, panini and salads, recently introduced three LTO sandwiches. The chain is reprising its“Albuquerque Turkey” and “Windy City Pastrami,” while rolling out a new Buffalo Chicken sandwich. The sandwiches will be available through Aug. 28.

Schlotzsky’s generates an average per-person check of $10.50, Roddy said.

Nick Vojnovic, former chairman of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said Schlotzsky’s experienced the “classic implosion story” and was forced to close stores in the post-Sept. 11 economy when new stand-alone restaurants were unable to generate sufficient sales. But Vojnovic, the former president of the parent company of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s sports pub chain, said the chain retains high brand awareness.

“It’s a great brand, and they offered a higher-end sandwich alternative to Subway’s,” he said. “If they get the right locations and the right niche, it could work. But it will be a hard work.”

Roddy said he has received “a lot of interest in [the Tampa and Orlando] markets. We’re picking franchise partners.”

Schlotzsky’s has about 370 units, with new stores scheduled to open this year in Texas, Denver, Oklahoma City and Atlanta. “There’s a lot of [Schlotzsky’s] construction going around the country,” Roddy said.

The new Schlotzsky’s restaurants in Tampa and Orlando also will include branded products of sister chains Cinnabon and Carvel, which are also owned by Focus Brands. Roddy said both brands “do well in Florida.”

Schlotzsky’s was founded in Austin, Texas, 40 years ago.

Contact Alan Snel at [email protected].

Follow him on Twitter: @Alansnelnrn

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