RUSKIN — SouthShore residents whose stomachs have been grumbling for more restaurants may finally see a boom in the food industry when the new Amazon warehouse arrives and brings 1,000 workers to the area.
"To me, it's kind of a simple math thing," said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. "Bottom line, you take a thousand new people in a community, and the average person eats out four or five times a week, think about what that's going to do when you multiply that number of people in one concentrated area."
Residents have long bemoaned the dearth of restaurants in SouthShore. Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce executive director Dana Dittmar said whenever the topic of Amazon comes up in discussion among the senior population, the first response is always the same: "We hope this bring us some new restaurants."
"There's going to a be lot of people in the SouthShore area that already live here who are going to put in for those jobs, but it's absolutely going to bring people in from outside the SouthShore area," Dittmar said. "They're going to need gas stations; they're going to need to eat; they're going to want to do things around where they work. We're hoping not only will it bolster the restaurants already in Sun City Center, but it will bring in new restaurants to this area, because we really don't have that many."
According to the National Restaurant Association, 45 percent of all adults say restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyle. And though SouthShore has endeared itself to many of its residents, they bristle at having to travel 20 minutes or more when looking to eat out.
"Even though it's not a far distance, I think it's inconvenient to have to go all the way up to Riverview for a good restaurant," said Jay Manning, 31, of Apollo Beach. "Even some fast food places and a couple of sit-down restaurants, just one or two, would make a difference."
Mio Fernandez said her family had to drive to Brandon last week when they wanted to celebrate her 56th birthday at Outback Steakhouse.
"We don't have anywhere to go here," Fernandez said. "We need all kinds of restaurants and other businesses around here."
Dover said with a development such as an Amazon warehouse, she expects to see "fast casual" sorts of places, such as Firehouse Subs, Panera Bread and Chipotle.
Fernandez said she'd like to see a good Mexican restaurant come to town. Manning would like to see a sit-down restaurant other than Beef 'O' Brady's and Circles Bar and Grille.
"The people down here do not want to drive all the way to Brandon to go to the bigger chain restaurants," Dittmar said. "We've got a couple that are not chains here. They're great restaurants, but three restaurants cannot handle almost 30,000 people, and that's just on this side of the interstate."
Bobby Fernandez, owner of Ybor Grille in Ruskin, is eager for the rise in year-round customers the warehouse could provide. Business is seasonal, often driven by snowbirds. A year-round employer could provided the much-need consistent patronage that businesses like Ybor Grille are looking for.
Even if the warehouse has a lunch spot built into it, Fernandez knows people like to get out for a change of pace. And he's no stranger to catering to the fast-paced lunch crowd.
"It's exciting," Fernandez said. "I've been here for seven years, and obviously we survived the rough times, but this sort of influx could really help us year round."
Caitlin Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.