Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rib City looks to expand

News-Press.com | 12.27.09

BY LAURA RUANE

Rib City claims a winning recipe, and not just for baby backs.

The 20-year-old Fort Myers-based barbecue chain is poised to add both franchisee- and company-owned locations next year, and expects to close out 2009 with an estimated $30 million in gross sales, up from $28 million in 2008. Only a handful of its franchise outlets have closed during the regional and national recessions.

Financial performance at the Florida restaurants - all company-owned - "are flat or up over last year," said company President Craig Peden.

Peden credits Rib City's ability to survive and thrive to "a culmination of a lot of things: the service, the quality of food, the atmosphere, the staff. These separate a restaurant from being just OK, to being better."

-excerpted-
Rib City is a Southwest Florida native. Craig Peden confirmed that Gerry Pastore, now living in Illinois, hatched the concept in 1989. Pastore joined forces with the Pedens, who now own and operate the chain, which has grown to 28 restaurants in six states.

Franchise holders typically are "either from here or have family here," Craig Peden said. "They come eat at our restaurant, and love the food."

One example: Vincent D'Onofrio, a star of TV's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." In 2007, he became part-owner of the Rib City in Sandy, Utah.

Peden said D'Onofrio partnered with sister and brother-in-law Toni and Ron Jorgensen in the franchise. The D'Onofrios got acquainted with Rib City through family get-togethers in Florida.

Another D'Onofrio sister, actress and writer Elizabeth D'Onofrio, formerly was a daytime bartender at The Veranda, Peden said, adding the D'Onofrio siblings' mother lives in Cape Coral.

Rib City, as a corporation, has taken a low-key approach to franchising promotion that includes occasionally putting informational leaflets on restaurant tables.
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