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Paul Avery expands Mandola’s Italian Kitchen, World of Beer

Industry veteran sees opportunities in pandemic-buffeted business


As the restaurant business emerges into the vaccine era, industry veteran Paul Avery is expanding both the casual-dining World of Beer brand and the newer fast casual Mandola’s Italian Kitchen.

Avery, the former president and chief operating officer of Outback Steakhouse Inc. (formerly OSI and now Bloomin’ Brands Inc.), opened new units of both the beer and Italian concepts during the pandemic and plans to ramp up growth in 2021 and 2022.

Four new locations of World of Beer opened in pandemic-hampered 2020, bringing the total now to 54, and a dozen are planned for next year. A second Florida location of Mandola’s Italian Kitchen is scheduled open in Tampa in September, joining the first Sunshine State unit that opened last year and the four existing locations in Austin, Texas.

The pandemic did change how Avery looks at site selection.

“We put the brakes on some of the downtown locations where there was a really high office concentration,” he said in a recent interview, “because as a lot of office workers haven't come back yet.”

Avery said World of Beer, for example, is looking for real estate near hotels, retail and a blend of residential, including apartments, condominiums and homes.

The second Florida Mandola’s Italian Kitchen location will also change, occupying a larger footprint to accommodate a commissary that will allow for further expansion, he said.

The first Florida unit opened in October in Riverview, Fla., in the Summerfield Commons Shopping Center. The 5,500-square-foot restaurant offers about 120 seats and 1,000 square feet of patio space for outdoor dining with seating for an additional 50 guests.

Avery said he remains focused on World of Beer, but he’s excited about the Mandola’s Italian Kitchen, being developed with Damian Mandola and his wife, Trina, who have four units in Austin.

“I was really impressed about the quality of bench strength that he's attracted,” Avery said, adding that development is on track to open four to six units in 2022.

“We're going do a commissary as we go to Orlando and as we go to Jacksonville and South Florida — we're going to penetrate Florida first,” he said. “It'll be a commissary model, but the menu will remain the same.” The gelato and dessert menu may expand, he added.

Mandola’s Italian Kitchen is open for lunch and dinner daily and offers takeout, curbside pickup, large-party orders and mobile catering.

Third-party delivery was added to World of Beer during the pandemic, Avery noted. The concept had not engaged in the platforms before, though it had planned to enter in that market in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“We were a little late to the party,” Avery said, “but in business you focus on certain things you know, and we just were prioritizing other areas of the business.

“When things shut down,” he continued, “we had no third-party of significance to fall back on.” The company quickly worked with delivery companies to add those services.

World of Beer plans to see in 2021 a total of six new World of Beer openings, with the next two locations in Doral, Fla., and Miami in September and October. The concept is franchising, but Avery wants to keep it about 75% company-owned.

Avery noted changes in the consumer since the pandemic.

“We have absolutely seen a shift in consumer behavior,” he said. “Their spending habits have changed dramatically. Their eating habits have changed and boy we've just had to stay very, very attuned to these changes and monitor those and be flexible in thought and action and how we manage the business.”

Avery noted that check averages have risen dramatically and prices have increased.

He noted that the business continues to excite him and pandemic closures indicate competition will ease for the next 12 to 24 months.

“We've had some serious attrition, and we're very fortunate to manage our way through it,” Avery said. “We're enjoying the tailwinds in the rebound of it, so I think we're going to have a less competitive environment for the next 12 to 24 months. But at this point there's a lot of people who are buying concepts and funding new things and so it's going to be back to the competitive more-seats-in-our-communities environment in another 12 to 24 months.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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