WINTER PARK, Fla. – Central Florida’s barbecue scene was rocked in September when the original Winter Park location of Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que closed doors after 35 years, but now a new restaurant focused on smoked meats is taking its place.
“Some people have seen me on the property, so there was some talk about it — but yeah, (word) does travel fast this town,” Ward said.
He plans to open a second Pig Floyd’s in the location. Ward said the owners of Bubbalou’s introduced him to the owner of the Lee Road property. He wants to pay tribute to the location’s history.
“Sam Meiner (the founder of Bubbalou’s) was a very important player in the barbecue business and obviously I want to serve him with a lot of respect,” he said. “So we might be doing some items on the menu just to pay our respects to him.”
This will mark the second time Ward has opened a second location of his popular Mills 50 restaurant. He had previously opened a location in the Lake Nona area but was forced to shutter that restaurant during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ward said this Lee Road location comes with some advantages.
“Obviously, that the location was a barbecue restaurant helps a lot,” Ward said. “Also, it’s closer to home, so we’ll be (better) able to to look over and manage the store and I think it’s a more, it’s closer to our demographic. We are attracting I think a lot of people from the Maitland Winter Park area.”
This new location also has a drive-thru, which Ward said will be a focus for the new restaurant.
“That helps us a lot because the market right now has shifted into a takeout and to-go market,” he said. “So the drive-thru will be one of our fortes and I think we’re gonna obviously work diligently in trying to make it work.”
Thomas Ward has been a guest of the Florida Foodie podcast. You can find his episode in the media player below:
He added that this will also act as a trial run for Pig Floyd’s future growth.
“It’s also a test for us to be able to move into other cities and open a main store and then have supplementary stores around with drive-thrus,” he said.
Ward clarified that each store will still smoke its own meats.
“We will keep the stores cooking,” he said. “I’m a big believer in that. Obviously, the issue becomes how do we become consistent? So, we’re working diligently also with that (consistency issue) — I have my chef Jason Carlucci working on that. So that’s gonna be probably the hardest part is how do we keep our stores consistent?”
In the meantime, Ward is already working on getting the new location up and running.
“I already have architects draw up for a demo plan,” he said. “The building needs to be updated. So, we are working hopefully to input a demo plan by the end of this week or next week and start with that. The sign, we’ve been working on it already, too. There’s a permit, hopefully, going to happen for that too, coming up. I’m trying to move as fast as I can.”
Ward is predicting a spring 2022 opening, possibly in April or May. However, Ward acknowledges that this work can be unpredictable as he is working with the City of Winter Park for the first time.
Additionally, the supply chain issues that have affected much of the country could cause complications. Ward is already feeling the effects at Pig Floyd’s Mills 50 location.
“The supply chain issue right now is something that I’ve never seen in my life,” Ward said. “I’ve been buying ribs from the same supplier for the last seven years and for the first time, I just got an email last week they will not have ribs for me for next year.”
Despite that, Ward remains optimistic.
“It’s interesting times. Obviously, we have to weather the storm. I think it’ll get better. I have a lot of hope that it will get better soon,” he said.
Ward needs to be optimistic because the second Pig Floyd’s location is not the only project he is working on. He is also working on two new restaurant concepts.
The first to open will be Pigzza, which will be focused on a marriage of barbecue and pizza, that Ward is opening with fellow restauranteur Al Palo, the owner/operator of Stasio’s Italian Deli. The restaurant is set to open up next to Will’s Pub, which sits at 1042 N. Mills Ave. Ward said the project, which was announced in May, recently hit a snag that has caused a hold-up.
“Midway through the process, the City of Orlando changed the rules on being able to have (a full liquor license),” he said. “We had to adjust our plans so that we can we could get full liquor and we did that and right now we are in the process.”
He added, “We’ve had our challenges, obviously, because everybody was working from home. Now they’re coming back to the office. So it’s a slower process. The city has been cooperative, but we’re trying to push it along.”
Ward also has plans for a restaurant called Peggy Floyd’s, which would be more of a diner concept.
“We’re trying to figure it out, obviously, in the same vicinity (the Mills 50 District) of the restaurants we currently have going,” he said. “It’s a breakfast and lunch concept.”
Ward said he is working on the logos and branding now, with plans to meet with his commercial real estate broker soon to discuss finding a location.
“It takes so long to do this whole process that you have to be a step ahead,” he said. “I mean, if I decide to sign a project now, it takes about a year to get it open. So, that’s the whole process. We have to be also careful that we don’t take much more than we can handle. I’m just trying to time it right.”
On top of all that, Ward wants to eventually open 50 Pig Floyd restaurants — a plan stymied by the pandemic.
“I had a plan that I wanted to build 50 units, but it’s like a maze,” Ward said. “I’m going in different directions due to the pandemic. It’s changed so much. The staffing situation and the staffing crunch has also played a role in that. So (when) we make decisions moving forward, we got to make sure that we make the right decisions to be able to do the business and keep our standards — which is the most important thing moving forward. We have high standards.”
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