Golden Corral Corp. plans to open Homeward Kitchen, the first fast-casual version of its buffet concept, in a former Chick-fil-A location in Southern Pines, N.C., a community northwest of Fayetteville, N.C.
The Raleigh, N.C.-based Golden Corral said the 4,200-square-foot conversion to Homeward Kitchen will open in the fall, aimed toward counter service and a younger customer than the traditional buffet concept.
Golden Corral is also testing a full-service steak concept, GC Grill House by Golden Corral, at a location in Lake Placid, Fla. That concept features a menu of favorites like pot roast, fried chicken and yeast rolls, plus new items like porterhouse steak, filet mignon, grilled pork chops and shrimp grits.
“Some of Golden Corral’s biggest strengths are our comfort food like fried chicken, meatloaf and pot roast,” said Lance Trenary, Golden Corral CEO earlier this year, in explaining Homeward Kitchen. “There won’t be a buffet in this restaurant. It will strictly be order at the counter, and we’ll come bring the curated comfort food to your table.”
Trenary said Homeward Kitchen would give the brand’s franchise community options. “If they want to grow the buffet, they can do that,” he said. “But if they want to grow with a smaller footprint and a slightly different clientele, they can do that too.”
A representative said Homeward Kitchen’s menu will feature classic comfort food entrées, salads, bowls, and sandwiches, as well as several side dishes, appetizers, and dessert options.
Those looking to feed a larger group can opt for a family meal featuring a choice of main courses and larger portions of sides, the company said. Popular comfort food items, like Slow-Cooked Pot Roast with Braised Vegetables, Golden Fried Shrimp, Homestyle Mac and Cheese, Green Beans, and Banana Pudding, will be daily options. New items are planned, such as Cajun Mac & Cheese Bowl or a Fried Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich served in Classic, Nashville Hot, Korean Style, and Honey Dipped varieties.
The company said all future planned Homeward Kitchen locations will feature a small dining room with dine-in, take-out, and drive-thru ordering options.
Golden Corral has chosen TradeMark Properties of Raleigh as its broker for the new fast-casual concept, and that representative is seeking sites in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, the brokerage said Wednesday.
“Golden Corral has been a comfort food institution in the Southeast for the past 50 years, and we are honored to be working with them as they launch this exciting new concept that will allow guests to enjoy comfort food in a modern way,” said Vijay Shah, a TradeMark Properties senior vice president, in a statement. “As part of our work, we are looking for properties that will allow drive-thrus in areas that fit the Homeward Kitchen criteria.”
TradeMark said it is considering existing quick-service restaurants with a drive-thru for sale or lease, as well as build-to-suit. The sites must also have a minimum of 40 spaces for parking and be in an area with 20,000 to 40,000 passing vehicles per day, a population of at least 50,000 people, and within a five-hour drive of Raleigh.
The initial location secured by TradeMark is at 10735 U.S. 501 in Southern Pines, N.C.. It is in a recently acquired 4,200-square-foot building that was formerly a Chick-fil-A, the broker noted.
Golden Corral, founded in 1973, currently has 362 restaurants, a spokesperson said. Datassential’s recent Top 500 report said Golden Corral ended 2022 with 372 units, down from 392 restaurants at the end of 2021.
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