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NEWS: BENTO Asian Kitchen + Sushi opening first Tampa location September 2020

BENTO Asian Kitchen + Sushi is opening their first Tampa location near USF in September 2020.

The 100-seat, 2,800 square-foot eatery will be located at 5103 East Fowler Avenueacross from the new Chipotle, Blaze Pizza, and University of South Florida campus. Fans of the Florida-based chain have long been asking for a location to open in Tampa.

“Our first BENTO location opened in the small college town of Gainesville 18 years ago in 2002 and was an almost instant hit amongst the University of Florida student crowd. Following that success, we’ve opened in college communities across Florida from UNF Jacksonville to UCF Orlando to FSU Tallahassee to USF St. Pete. Tampa has been one of our highest-requested cities so we were ecstatic to have found a spot that would be easily accessible for USF Tampa students,” says Johnny Tung, co-founder.

The Tampa location will offer plenty of outdoor seating, and will feature BENTO’s signature red sushi bar, warm wood tones, and brass accents reminiscent of modern cafes and lounges found in Japan & Taiwan.

“We’ve been eyeing Tampa for a very long time. Being an economic hub in West Florida, and home to a major University as well as several well-established sports teams, we’re thrilled to finally be able to call Tampa our new home. Notably, there’s an amazing emerging food culture that we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of. The Fowler location will certainly not be the last in the area. We’re hoping to open up three more Tampa locations in the near future,” says Tung.

BENTO Tampa will mark the concept’s 17th location, and the second in the Tampa Bay area following its downtown St. Petersburg debut in the fall of 2018. It will be joining a lineup of 16 other locations across Florida including restaurants in Orlando, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Davie, Boca Raton, Pembroke Pines, Tallahassee, Kissimmee, Winter Park, and BENTO’s newest location in Oviedo.

The concept has no plans of slowing down with six more locations expected to open within the next year. Stores are planned in Dania Beach, Lake Nona, Wellington, Jacksonville Beach, Downtown Jacksonville, and Sarasota – all projected to open before 2020 comes to a close.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, BENTO has been proactive in adapting its operation to accommodate off-site dining. The launch of BENTO’s new company-wide online ordering site, in particular, is making social distancing a whole lot easier for the brand’s loyal customers.

The new ordering platform allows users to skip the line, schedule an order in advance for pickup or delivery, and pay with just a few clicks. Users also have the option to save their favorite orders, and take advantage of online-exclusive deals. There is also a mobile app version coming soon.

Following this wave, future locations will be featuring a new pick-up window for a more contact-less experience.

Find more information at eatatbento.com.

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PSL Season is Upon Us: Dunkin’ Brings Back Pumpkin Spice Lattes August 19th

Get your taste buds and outfits ready, Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) season is upon us and will return by Wednesday, August 19th, to Dunkin’ Donuts. It is the earliest that the season has ever started as brands rush to bring back the autumn season.

On the menu…

  • NEW Signature Pumpkin Spice Latte: Spicing up the brand’s fall lineup is an exceptional seasonal sip worthy of even the most fanatical “fallower,” Dunkin’s new Signature Pumpkin Spice Latte. Elevating PSL to another level of enjoyment, the Signature Pumpkin Spice Latte – available hot or iced – combines rich, smooth espresso with pumpkin and vanilla flavors, topped with whipped cream, a caramel drizzle, and cinnamon sugar topping.
  • NEW Chai Latte: Dunkin’s fall celebration includes a new option for tea lovers, offering a sweetened chai tea blend with spices including cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg combined with milk.
  • Pumpkin Flavored Coffees: The classic cup for fueling up in fall, Dunkin’s pumpkin flavor swirl is available in its hot or iced coffee, Chai Latte, Cold Brew, espresso drinks, frozen coffee, and frozen chocolate.
  • Apple Cider Donut and MUNCHKINS® Donut Hole Treats: Dunkin’s Apple Cider Donut features an apple cider cake ring tossed in cinnamon sugar. For a bite-sized serving of seasonal sweetness, guests can also enjoy Apple Cider MUNCHKINS® donut hole treats.
  • Pumpkin Donut, MUNCHKINS® Donut Hole Treats, and Muffin: Fall isn’t complete without the classic treat of Dunkin’s Pumpkin Donut, a glazed pumpkin cake donut that can also be enjoyed as MUNCHKINS® donut hole treats, along with Dunkin’s Pumpkin Muffin, topped with white icing and sweet streusel crumbs.
  • Maple Sugar Bacon Breakfast Sandwich: To help feed fall cravings, Dunkin’ is bringing back its Maple Sugar Bacon Breakfast Sandwich, featuring five half-slices of maple sugar seasoned bacon, egg, and white cheddar cheese served on a warm, flaky croissant.
Dunkin’.

Satisfying Snackin’ Selection:

  • NEW Stuffed Bagel Minis: Bagel lovers can go small this fall, as Dunkin’ introduces Stuffed Bagel Minis, mini bagel rounds filled with plain cream cheese and served warm. Stuffed Bagel Minis are available in two varieties, Plain and Everything Topping.
  • NEW Steak & Cheese Rollups: Dunkin’ is adding steak to its lineup of rollups, which also include Ham & Cheese and Bacon & Cheese varieties. Steak & Cheese Rollups, which come two per order, include delicious steak and American cheese rolled up in flour tortillas.
  • NEW Maple Sugar Seasoned Snackin’ Bacon: Dunkin’ is also putting a seasonal spin on its beloved Snackin’ Bacon. Guests can enjoy eight snack-sized slices of bacon specially flavored with maple sugar seasoning. Each order comes in a sleeve, making it easy to enjoy on the go.  

PSL at Home: Guests can also take the taste of pumpkin home with Dunkin’s Pumpkin K-Cup® pods, available at participating Dunkin’ restaurants nationwide for a limited time. Additionally, Pumpkin Spice K-Cup® pods and packaged coffee will be available in grocery stores and other retailers nationwide for a limited time this season.

All items will be available by August 19th nationwide. Happy PSL!

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Hershey’s, Jet-Puffed and Honey Maid Brands join forces to give $50,000 to local restaurants

Three popular food brands are joining forces this summer to give $10,000 to five local restaurants in celebration of National S’mores Day: Hershey’s, Jet-Puffed, and Honey Maid.

The trio is calling on small, hometown restaurants and their staff to showcase their favorite S’mores dessert on their menu (new or existing) for a chance to win one of five $10,000 prizes. Restaurants have until Monday, August 24th to enter.

“We are overwhelmed by the love people have had for S’mores this summer. During the current pandemic, many families have turned to the connectivity and comfort of making S’mores as a way to get through this challenging time,” said Bill Maclean, senior marketing director, Hershey’s brand.

Photo Credit: Hershey’s

“We wanted to say thank you and bring attention to all of those local restaurants who have been affected. We want to provide some relief while celebrating these restaurants, their recipes and their love of S’mores.”

The rules to enter for businesses are:

  1. Post a picture or short video to Instagram or Twitter showcasing your most creative S’mores recipe. The treat MUST at least be made with Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, Jet-Puffed Marshmallows and Honey Maid Graham Crackers or Graham Cracker Crumbs – the classic S’mores ingredients!
  2. Make sure to tag @hersheys @kraftjetpuffed @honeymaidsnacks and use the hashtag #SmoresGivesBackContest. For the caption of the posted photo or video, tell why your restaurant deserves to win a prize, and how the prize would be used to impact the restaurant and its employees.
  3. No Purchase is Necessary to enter. For full details of eligibility and entry, including judging criteria, see the Official Rules. Contest ends 11:59:59 PM EDT on August 24, 2020. Void where prohibited. Must be age of majority or older to enter. Entries submitted on behalf of restaurants.

Find more information at smoresgivesback.com.

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Sweetgreen rolls out late summer menu with new fruits and veggies

Fast-casual chain sweetgreen has announced a late summer menu with new fruits and vegetables to highlight the season such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, summer corn, and peaches.

For the late summer menu, sweetgreen is working with more than 160 suppliers across the country to source local, sustainable produce for each market. 

New on the menu for the season:

  • Pesto Ratatouille Plate: a whole chicken thigh, roasted eggplant and peppers, heirloom tomatoes, basil, shaved parmesan, warm wild rice, with a pesto vinaigrette
  • Peaches + Yogurt: a classic combo of of peaches and cream featuring a tangy cashew yogurt sauce

Returning by popular demand:

  • Summer Corn Bowl: roasted corn and peppers, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, cilantro, goat cheese, tortilla chips, spicy sunflower seeds, warm quinoa, arugula, and Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette

Sweetgreen was founded in 2007 by Nicolas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru, and Jonathan Neman and now has over 100 locations in the United States. Find more information at sweetgreen.com.

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Tampa Bay bartenders and laundry non-profit join forces in pandemic fight

COVID-19 has impacted numerous industries around the country. One of the hardest hit industries is the bar industry where bartenders have constantly found themselves in shutdowns with rent still due and clothes that needs washing.

Recently, Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation closed bars and breweries around the state as virus cases continue to spin out of control due to very little regulation or engagement from Tallahassee.

Once again numerous bartenders have found themselves without work. Meanwhile some restaurants are breaking the rules with impunity.

I talked recently with Justin Gray from the United States Bartenders’ Guild chapter in Tampa Bay, a long time supporter of the industry and one of the best local bartenders I know.

I wanted to get the story behind how they ended up partnering with a non-profit called Current Initiatives and their Laundry Project which is “committed to educating and mobilizing communities to be Hope Dealers” for a project called A Drink Pocalypse that is raising money for bartenders and also for Current Initatives.

Supporters can purchase videos on cocktail techniques from experts around the Tampa Bay at the low cost of $10 and help support the industry and those who need it most.

Carlos Eats: What’s the story behind the partnership between USBG Tampa Bay Chapter and Current Initiatives?

JG: There isn’t a backstory – there is the reality of restaurant closures and the response to COVID-19. It was unexpected and something that none of us knew how to prepare for.

When it happened more than anything it was kind of a sense of emergency. I don’t think it was something light-hearted. We need something now.

USBG and bartenders…we’ve had meetings and conversations. A Drink Pocalypse happened in late April, while restaurants and bar were initially closed in March. We as an industry hadn’t figured it out.

There was a sense of urgency.

Carlos Eats: So survival pretty much?

JG: Sam Adams did something. Guy Fieri too. However too many people are impacted for one of those to have an actual lasting effect. Seeing how many people lost their jobs nationally, there is no way for those programs to guarantee that the assistance would come into our zip codes.

We wanted to do something where all funds would be kept right here in Tampa. Open to anyone throughout the Bay Area. The candidate pool was smaller.

That’s what drove us.

Carlos Eats: How can people help?

JG: Current Initatives has been around. When the restaurant closures happened, they extended their programs to include the hospitality programs.

What a lot of people aren’t thinking about. One of the most unfortunate things is the number of places that are permanently closed. We aren’t counting how many places have closed permanently or indefinitely.

Even though some restaurants are open, we are going to continue to provide help as long as we can.

Cocktail videos from bartenders from M. Bird, Copper and Shaker, the best bars in Tampa will show you different cocktail techniques. The video is a learn video.

As a bar manager or owner, you can purchase this video and they have incredible techniques that can be implemented. Sales go directly to Current Initiatives.

Buy the videos to support bartenders. Whether people are philanthropic or just to learn. The value is far beyond $10.

Carlos Eats: What do you think the state or city should be doing to help?

JG: I don’t want to make this sound like it is only a bartender phenomenon. If I can get sick at a bar, I can get sick anywhere else. The policy is inconsistent.

The situation is like this: either people go hungry or people lose their lives. Either people pay rent or people pay their lives. It’s an impossible situation and it is absolutely necessary that institutions – that they be there.

Stimulus checks can be good or bad. We need to halt rent payments. Our government has to care enough about us. The numbers in Florida are record breaking, at the same time people cannot afford not to have money.

None of us citizens are able to stop the coronavirus. There is nothing we as citizens can do besides looking at our government. Please continue to provide support. People are not able to work.

It’s time for us to look at how the government can continue to extender rent or mortgage deferments. The government is the only one who can help us.

Everyone needs help.

The more people that buy the video the better.


I then wanted to get more of the story behind Current Initiatives so I talked with the Founder Jason Sowell. He is a native Floridian who has worked in the non-profit sector for 20 years. He is a public speaker, writer, non-profit entrepreneur, missionary, wedding officiant & podcast host.

Carlos Eats: Can you start off with the history behind Current Initiatives?

JS: Current Initiatives started 12 years ago. Our first initiative was The Laundry Project. Out of learning stories about families that live in the area, I learned laundromats are expensive and not a fun place.

Lots of families struggle between groceries or laundry. I sought to turn laundromats into community centers and provide free laundry for those in need. I had big expansions plans for new locations and citizens, then the pandemic happened.

Things shut down. I pivoted back to Tampa – which is my home that I love. Recognizing that it is not just lower income families. People are out of work. The hospitality industry is hit hard. People will struggle to do their laundry.

I sat down with Mayor Jane Castor and TPD and I said we need to keep doing this. I told them I hope they will keep laundromats an essential business.

Carlos Eats: Would volunteers be helpful?

JS: We typically use volunteers, but shut down most of it due to the pandemic. A few bartenders and servers are personal friends that were laid off and hadn’t participated before then offered to help.

The hospitality industry got involved as volunteers and for 3 months teams of hospitality workers have worked 3 days a week to help in laundromats. 1 day a week is for hospitality workers. Bartenders went to bars and restaurants and told people about the project. Whoever needs can sign-up.

Carlos Eats: How can the general public help?

JS: Donations are what we are seeking. People can contact to volunteer when things get better. The need has been great. Typically we do 80 projects in a year, but in 16 weeks we have done 48 projects. Much more than usual. We don’t have plans to slow down.

Carlos Eats: What policy solutions could be used to help?

JS: A huge block of citizens who use laundromats are there by force. Prices at laundromats are what they are due to policy decisions. At home you pay for water by the gallon, but laundromats pay in tiers which strains operators and raises prices on citizens. It’s a slim-margin business.

Carlos Eats: How else can the government make a difference?

JS: Government assistance is usually only for food. People cannot use it for household supplies. Nor can they use it at a laundromat which is a problem.

Also – lower-income families are operating on cash. Politicians are pushing cashless which is harder on lower-income families who may not have bank accounts for contact-less payments and the hospitality industry which is paid in cash from tips.

There is a coin shortage due to a shutdown at the mint. Politicians need to get creative to get quarters to help families who need to wash their clothes. Bad policy can make things worse for people already struggling.

We as a society need to think about doing things in way that is dignifying for people getting help or empowering. Decisions during the coronavirus unintentionally are hurting lower-income families because leaders are not thinking things through.

Carlos Eats: I agree. The shutdown of bars and breweries is a perfect example of rushed decision making.

JS: Yes – that shutdown depends largely on license types. If you are coded for a restaurant you are allowed to operate, while other businesses close.

If I had to home in on a temporary measure we need to take, we need to make it easier for people out of work to get funds for things they need. Unemployment access.

Some bartenders have spent weeks and months helping other bartenders that need help, while struggling themselves to get on unemployment. That needs to change.

Carlos Eats: Thank you for your time. I know I learned a ton.

//

Support the United States Bartenders Guild in Tampa Bay at A Drink Pocalpyse (www.adrinkpocalypse.com).

Visit The Laundry Project by Current Initatives online at laundrybycurrent.org.

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NEWS: Tampa restaurants and Black Lives Matter have a complicated week

This week there were a number of stories happening around Black Lives Matter after the murder of George Floyd and in Tampa’s restaurant restaurant community it was no different.

A number of restaurants were navigating how to address the rising movement and protests or how to deal with the fallout of communicating about it to their customers.

The week began with a post from Lanfranco Pescante of Nocturnal Hospitality Group. A message posted online by him said “shoot them all” and drew condemnation from the local community including black leaders, bloggers, and others, led to Franco’s resignation, brought 500 protesters to Downtown Tampa at Franklin Manor, and eventually ended up leading to Celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani cutting ties with all associated restaurants from the group including many upcoming concepts around the Tampa Bay area.

This fiasco ended with the indefinite closing of all properties including Franklin Manor, Osteria Tampa, Mole y Abuela, and upcoming concepts like Shibui and La Pergola. News reports have shown that Franco is now under FBI and state investigation. Investors and employees found themselves caught in a firestorm that led to almost 200+ people losing their jobs after months of COVID-19 lockdowns.

A former investor shares this:

Next, Oxford Exchange – a popular South Tampa eatery worth millions decided to wade into the debate happening and posted that they support all lives and African-Americans, but refused to say that “Black Lives Matter” which led to people fighting in their comments until eventually the brand relented and put #blacklivesmatter into the description.

It’s important to know that when your brand has decided to take a stand on an issue, you must think about the cause you are supporting. Black Lives Matter is an issue where you must actually say it to be effective and show your solidarity.

The important thing about politics is always that if you don’t want to get involved, simply say nothing at all.

After that, popular eatery Datz in South Tampa also found themselves in a social media controversy after an employee put up Black Lives Matter on their famous signboard without talking to the owners of the business.

This led to confusion and allegations and in the end the owners decided to go forward and post it on their page and explained that they felt it was “distasteful” for their employee to add the words without thinking about how it would be displayed first since the original sign was advertising breakfast.

Finally – an employee at Seminole Heights General Store told Creative Loafing that they were fired because of posts they made online supporting Black Lives Matter.

That was a long week.

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NEWS: GoFundMe Created for Saigon Bay Damaged During Protests in Tampa

Last night the nation witnessed another night of protests across the country after the death of George Floyd and many of them became violent in the evening.

Although Tampa saw a peaceful protest in the daytime with the Mayor of Tampa Jane Castor and Chief of Police Brian Dugan marching with protesters, as the evening approached the protests became more intense and led to several cases of looting including a burning of a Mobil gas station and then a fire at Champ’s across the street from the University Mall.

Saigon Bay is a local Vietnamese restaurant that has been a neighborhood eatery for decades and it’s location next to Champ’s led to damage of their building. University of South Florida students and staff, as well as those from the area know it well as a great place to enjoy a bowl of pho.

Bryan Huynh, whose family formerly owned Saigon Bay, shared this statement on Instagram:

“As you may know Tampa got out of hand last night. My parents owned and built this restaurant from the ground up ever since I was born. We sold it a few years back to some wonderful owners that took the restaurant to another level. I’m incredibly heartbroken about the events that have occurred especially to something so near and dear to my family’s hearts, but please please everyone be empathetic towards one another.

In the video of George Floyd’s death, there was a man of Asian decent that was in the wrong and it reminded me how different it is for our race. Yes, we still deal with racism. However police brutality is something our race does not have to deal with. I’ve seen with my own eyes how my African American friends get treated differently than me even though I am a minority just like them.

Whenever I hear “All Lives Matter,” it’s total bulls***. At the end of the day, we all have to be kind towards one another. Love really does cure all. As for Saigon Bay, I am communicating with the owners to see how we can help as a community to help put back their business that they put their blood, sweat and tears into. #blacklivesmatter #bekind

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/saigon-bay-vietnamese-restaurant-tampa

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Coronavirus: Souplantion, Sweet Tomatoes fold under pressure

The first major restaurant industry casualty is Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes, many more are expected in the future as the restaurant industry is impacted by COVID-19. The Los Angeles Times posted a full story this evening about the closure. The chain has been plagued with troubled finances for years.

The reaction on Twitter was filled with mourning:

RIP to unlimited clam chowder.

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Coronavirus: Over 20 restaurants in Tampa Bay will not open dining rooms on May 4th

Governor Ron DeSantis will allow restaurants in Florida to re-open dining rooms on Monday, May 4th, 2020 at 25% their usual capacity and unlimited capacity on patios as long as “social distancing” is maintained.

Over 20 Tampa Bay restaurants have decided not to re-open their dining rooms on May 4th. Most have said that they want to protect the health and safety of their employees and customers and will continue takeout or delivery if currently operational. Some are still working on a plan on how exactly to proceed.

Florida currently has 36,078 Coronavirus cases and 1,379 Floridians have died so far. Over 600 cases were added in the last 24 hours and several experts have said that Florida does not have proper testing in place to stop a new outbreak of the virus in the state.

Here are statements from some of the restaurants who will not be opening their dining rooms on May 4th:

  1. Siam Thai Garden: The St. Petersburg restaurant located at 3125 Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Street North posted on Facebook: “We believe things are too unpredictable right now to safely open for everyone, and people should come before profit. As a Thai saying goes, “To maintain your health is a fortune in itself.” They will continue to offer takeout and delivery. Find them at siamgardenthai.com.
  2. Bento Restaurant Group: This large restaurant group shared to their fans “As you may know, the mandatory closure of all dining rooms will be lifted in several counties across Florida as of this Monday, May 4th. The health and well-being of our team, guests, and community are still our top priority, so we have made the decision to keep our dining rooms temporarily closed. We will continue to offer takeout and delivery until we feel it’s safe to reopen our dining rooms.” eatatbento.com
  3. Columbia Restaurant Group: Ulele and Columbia restaurants have remained closed during the pandemic although Goody Goody Burger re-opened for takeout recently in South Tampa. Their owners shared, “While we’re now allowed to reopen, we will decide what that means for each of our restaurants. It might mean takeout or outside seating at some of our locations, but it’s too soon to know what or when (except for Goody Goody, which began takeout only on May 1). Whatever happens will be gradual, and safe for our guests and staff. We’re also watching other states very carefully to see what happens with restaurants there.” ulele.com columbiarestaurant.com goodygoodyburgers.com
  4. Cassis: The popular Downtown St. Pete restaurant and bakery posted that they will remain closed for now. Cassis posted “As of now, we are currently keeping the doors to our restaurant and bakery closed. We miss all of you so much and want our next evening together to be one that is safe and celebratory.” cassisstpete.com
  5. Pia’s Trattoria: “After much pondering we decided NOT to open this coming week for sit down service. As much as we would like to open our doors again, we don’t feel ready yet to welcome you. To make it a really safe operation for everyone involved and still provide an enjoyable experience we have to take many steps and think ahead. Employee training and repositioning, facility set up, special sanitary stations and -tools, strict guidelines, are just some of them. To bring our employees out of unemployment and you into our dining areas we need to get it all right, NO mistakes can be made. We are working hard on it, please be patient and stay tuned! ❤️. We will keep going with curbside service while we working on these necessary upgrades. Thank you all for your understanding!” piastrattoria.com.
  6. Jesse’s Steak and Seafood: This Brandon eatery shares “Although restaurants have been cleared to open at twenty-five percent capacity beginning May 4th, our dining room will remain closed until Governor DeSantis clears businesses for Phase 2. We have made this decision based upon both economical and safety concerns. We will however continue our curbside pickup and delivery, which is available through MobileMeals. We are also taking this opportunity to do some remodeling and necessary maintenance. We appreciate all of the continued support we have received from our community of loyal customers and look forward to seeing all of you in our dining room again soon!” jessessteakandseafood.com
  7. Soho Sushi + Yoko’s Classic Japanese Cuisine: The two popular South Tampa eateries posted similar messages: “While we are excited the Governor has initiated Phase One (which includes the ability of restaurants to operate at 25% capacity), we have made the very difficult and cautious decision to keep our dining room closed for now. In the meantime, we can continue to offer 20% off your curbside carry out. To place your order you can call, order online or use new SoHo Sushi mobile app. In addition, we’ll continue our delivery services through Uber Eats. You health and safety are our priority. We are completely overwhelmed by your support during this extraordinary time. Our hearts are full. We look forward to having you join us in our dining room soon.” sohosushi.com yokostampa.com
  8. Red Mesa Restaurant: I Love The Burg reports this statement “Red Mesa Restaurant Group will remain take out and carry out only until we feel it is safe to resume normal business operations,” said Tony Pullaro, Marketing Director. redmesarestaurant.com.
  9. Ichicoro Ramen: “In consideration of our team and safety, our Seminole Heights dining room will temporarily remain closed as we continue to monitor the situation. We are reviewing the changing restrictions and guidelines to inform all our decisions, making sure we serve you the absolute best way possible. We truly appreciate all the support and love we have received and will continue to do our best to support you back. We love you all #ramenarmy. Be safe. Be well. Above all remember, #weramenthistogether“. ichicoro.com
  10. Japanese Kitchen Dosunco: “For your safety and ours, we will not be open for dine-in. However, we will continue making takeout orders! Stay Safe Tampa Bay!” facebook.com/DOSUNCOTAMPA
  11. Sushi Ninja Tampa: This Korean and Japanese concept shared: “Both locations’ dining rooms will continue to remain closed until we are comfortable and confident that our staff, their families, and our community will be safe and healthy. We will continue to operate curb-side pick up for our customers.” Visit them online at sushininjafl.com.
  12. Cuenelli’s Peruvian Rotisserie and Grill: “Dear customers are a business, Cuenelli’s has decided to maintain our current operations and we are limiting ourselves to carry outs & to-go’s only until further notice. We value your business and we are eagerly working on a plan to return to our full operations soon.”
  13. Shuffle Tampa: “We are on this call and will be letting everyone know soon what our plan will be. We will NOT be opening to the public this week. Our takeout for next week will be Tuesday and Friday for now. Please maintain social distancing and stop hugging us. ❤️💙💛💚💜”. shuffletampa.com
  14. Bake’n Babes: This bakery from Tampa Heights will not be opening to the public at this time according to Owner Julie Curry. They will be doing delivery with Uber Eats and contactless pickup on Saturdays. bakenbabes.com
  15. King State: “As we head into this week, our dining room will remain closed for the time being. Lots of unknowns, lots of differing opinions, so we are going to take a little more time and make sure when we come back, it makes sense for our guests and everyone involved. We’re still crushing online & call ahead orders! As always, thanks for your support & we’re stoked to see you all inside whenever that may be! We’ll keep you posted! ONE LUV. YUH.” king-state.com
  16. Hawker’s St. Pete: “While we would absolutely love to break bread (er, Roti) with you guys while sitting around a Hawkers table catching up on great conversation, we have to make sure we are putting the safety of our team members and our guests first and foremost. We are already taking incredibly extensive measures to ensure the safety of all takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery orders, but we also recognize that there are numerous additional steps that must be taken, beyond what has been outlined by elected officials, to ensure the safest possible dine-in atmosphere for our team and our guests. We simply need more time to implement these dine-in safety measures, while also giving our team enough notice to make the necessary arrangements for their families as they prepare for a safe and steady reopening.” eathawkers.com
  17. Russo’s NY Pizzeria – Clearwater: “We’re hopeful and excited that Florida is slowly reopening. Restrictions for restaurants have begun to loosen but we have decided we will not open our dining room at this point for the new 25% capacity limit. We have been extremely fortunate to safely serve you through takeout, curbside pickup, free delivery and delivery via third party. We’ll continue to focus on operating safely in this fashion while we take some steps to get ready to open our patio and dining room. Click the link to see all our current specials and call us at 727-648-4304 to order this weekend. Thank you so much for your support.” nypizzeria.com/clearwater/
  18. Casita Taqueria: “While we’re beyond excited we’re also cautious. We have decided to keep our inside dining closed until we reach Phase 2. Casita will continue with curbside pick-up and online ordering. Our locations will proceed with outside patio dining and have spaced those tables accordingly per the CDC guidelines. We want to make sure your family is protected as well as our employees.” casitatacos.com
  19. Casa Tina: The popular Mexican eatery will not be open for Cinco de Mayo, but is doing a virtual Cinco de Mayo that is currently sold out. “We need to slowly work our way back to serving in the safest most responsible way that we can..I don’t like the uncertainty, I’d rather be cautious and safe. We’ve been so blessed to have our staff that we have had for many years…We want to see how it goes. We want to be cautious. We need to tread very carefully. It is our life. 28 years. We live for our business.”. casatinas.com
  20. Pacific Counter: “We have decided to stay the course with Takeout and Delivery for the time being, but will be setting up outdoor tables for guests to dine at if they’d like to remain on premise” from I Love The Burg. pacificcounter.com
  21. Coppertail Brewing Co.: “We are very eager to open these doors back up but at this time we are going to take it slow. While we could operate at a limited capacity, we will not be opening up for onsite food or beer consumption. Take out and to-go sales will continue until we feel like we can responsibly have groups in our establishment. All of this is to keep our staff and guests safe in a still uncertain time. We will keep everyone updated as we learn more and feel we are making the right decision. We miss you all, appreciate your continued support and truly can’t wait to have everyone back.” coppertailbrewing.com
  22. Ella’s: “The future is uncertain, and although we can’t wait to be able to see and serve you again, we feel that the today’s opening of Florida restaurants is a bit too soon for us here at Ella’s. We will continue to be here for all your take out needs and are working on a safe and sustainable plan to ensure the safety of our guests and our staff. Please stay tuned!”ellasfolkartcafe.com
  23. Rooster & The Till: “As the state works to open up slowly, we are not opening up our dining room just yet. We’ll continue to offer Rooster Re-Dux togo options either by calling in, or Uber Eats until we announce otherwise. Please continue to support and order togo food, and our Sunday Supper Club meals – We appreciate your support, and thank you for ordering with us. This is a fluid situation and we’re going to do what is the best and safest option for our guests and employees.” roosterandthetill.com
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NEWS: PDQ launches breakfast menu at Carrollwood location

PDQ, a popular and growing chicken chain from Florida, launched a breakfast menu on Tuesday at their Carrollwood location located at 12650 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. The menu is also available at their test kitchen located at 4343 Anchor Plaza Parkway in Tampa. Those are the only 2 locations serving breakfast for now.

Breakfast is available 7 days a week from 6:30AM to 10:30AM. It is available for dine-in, to-go, and for catering.

The breakfast menu includes: “sandwiches, wraps, a breakfast bowl and more. The sandwich options feature two biscuit sandwiches: a Honey Butter Chicken and a Pimento Brunch item. Guests can also order the new French Toaster sandwich, which contains sausage, fresh egg, cheddar cheese, and maple butter on PDQ’s own french toast bun.”

Signature menu offerings include “King’s Hawaiian chicken bites, a breakfast bowl with crispy honey butter chicken, fresh egg and cheddar jack cheese over tots, and 3 fresh whole wheat wraps: Maple Butter Bacon, Sriracha Sunrise and the Grilled Chicken Mornin’ wrap. Beverage choices include Joffrey’s Peruvian medium blend, and two different Cold Brew options”.

Breakfast has been a winning category for chains in the restaurant industry lately with McDonald’s pivoting to breakfast and Wendy’s dropping a breakfast menu.

Jonathan Maze, Executive Editor at Restaurant Business, shared some professional insight into this growth:

“It is very much a growing segment.

There are a number of fast-growth fast-casual breakfast-and-lunch places. Cracker Barrel’s purchase of Maple Street Biscuit Co. last year was a pretty serious indication of the growth in that particular sector. And there are a lot of such chains that have emerged in recent years. Chains like IHOP (Flip’d) are even starting their own versions. And then a number fast casuals like Modern Market offer breakfast.

It’s been a growth daypart for fast casual for some time. Breakfast is the fastest growing daypart so you’re always going to find development as a result. And much of the development in the restaurant business period remains in fast casual. Ergo, breakfast fast casual continues to grow.”