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Robert Trigaux

Thanks to boom of ex-Outbackers, restaurant start-ups are awesomely blossoming here



Wake up and good morning. The alumni of the Outback Steakhouse empire just can seem to get restaurants start-ups out of their system. That's good for Tampa Bay and our taste buds. Let's catch up with those from the Outback crew of old are out there launching new restaurant concepts.

redelephantcafecarl_sahlsteinexcarrabbasskiporourke.jpgFirst up is the Red Elephant Cafe, which opens in South Tampa next week under the eye of by ex-Carrabba's Italian Grill chief Carl Sahlsten (left).The 8-store chain was founded by former Tallahassee Outback store manager John Schrowang. This version, opening Monday at 111 S. Dale Mabry in Tampa, is the first "fast-casual" version with half the space (80 seats) and half the start-up costs. Read more by Tampa Bay Times staff writer Mark Albright here. (Photo by Skip O'Rourke of the Tampa Bay Times.)

carmelcaferendering2601wswannavesouthtampa.jpgMeanwhile, over at the Carmel Cafe, leader Chris Sullivan says the time has come for the new restaurant chain to build its own look. This rendering (right) shows the new $2 million Carmel Cafe being built at 2601 W Swann Ave. in South Tampa. It's a Mediterranean cuisine, tapas-styled concept. Sullivan, of course, is the highest profile founder of the original Outback Steakhouse chain and a prominent business leader, philanthropist (and golfer) here for decades. This site will be the fourth location for Carmel Cafe. Read more, again from Times staff writer Mark Albright here.

pdqbobbashamnick_readeroctaviojonesphoto.jpgNot to be left behind is Outback co-founder Bob Basham, whose PDQ (as in "pretty darn quick") fast food chain has its first location up and running at 2207 S Dale Mabry and is scouting additional spots to expand. Basham makes a good point: "We never realized Outback would have 100 stores within 5 years of opening the first one in".... wait for it... "South Tampa." Times staff writer Mark Albright calls PDQ a "Buick-level fast food experience" with $7 meals. Read more from Albright here. (Photo, left, of Bob Basham (left) and PDQ co-founder Nick Reader, CEO of MVP Holdings. By Tampa Bay Times' Octavio Jones.)

But wait. There are more Outbackers doing their own thing now. They include David Osterweil and FitLife Foods and Ben Novello and Jim Pollard's World of Beer. And Lee Roy Selmon's barbecue/sports bar chain, once part of the Outback empire, was spun off years ago and is now also part of MVP Holdings.

If that isn't a remarkable cluster of restaurant entrepreneurs, what is? Awesome.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times




[Last modified: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 7:34am]


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