An investor who spent about $500,000 to reopen a shuttered fast-food restaurant in West Palm Beach plans 10 more Checkers drive-thrus over the next five years.
Corey Kipp is one of the newest franchisees with Tampa-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. as the chain sets out to create up to 75 new outlets across South Florida in an aggressive multimillion-dollar expansion push.
Kipp acquired the 925-square-foot restaurant with walk-up and double drive-thru windows at 1209 N. Dixie Highway and reopened it last October. He said it’s one of more than a dozen he plans to launch in Palm Beach, Martin and Okeechobee counties.
“This franchisee has a really strong appetite to open restaurants,” said Checkers vice president Jennifer Durham.
Kipp bought into the Checkers group as the chain recruits investors to help expand the brand known for Big Buford burgers and loaded potato skins.
Checkers is the largest chain of double drive-thru restaurants in the U.S. It operates more than 800 locations nationwide, including 40 in South Florida with 360,000 square feet of dining space. The company hopes to more than triple its regional footprint in the next five years by opening corporate stores and attracting franchisees to lease or buy sites.
“From a franchisee perspective this restaurant is a no-brainer,” said Kipp, president and CEO of Finish Line Foods Inc. in West Palm Beach. “We have loyal customers, and we can build our base.”
The expansion starts immediately. Finish Line has financing in hand for a second store set to break ground in 60 days on Broadway Avenue in Riviera Beach.
“It’s easy to find people and money to build something that has a 2-to-1 ROI,” said Kipp, a Wall Street investment banker-turned-restaurateur, who bought into the franchise with his wife and a former fast-food executive.
Checkers investors typically spend an average $500,000, or about $555 per square foot, for restaurant sites of about a third to a half acre. Depending on the layout, the chain’s restaurants typically cost $300,000 to $750,000, with costs varying for single or double drive-thrus. In keeping with Checkers’ new design prototype, all restaurants will be freestanding with contemporary upgrades, revamped signage and flourishes that make them stand out from the street.
Each restaurant creates about 30 jobs and adds about $36,000 in property tax revenue to the tax base, Kipp said.
In addition to Finish Line’s ventures, Checkers has four new South Florida restaurants in the works this year and two more planned for 2015. It has approval for five eateries in Miami and one on U.S. Highway 441 in Fort Lauderdale, for a total investment of about $3 million. All told, the chain intends to open 40 to 75 restaurants in South Florida over the next five years, with three to five new restaurants added annually in each county.
“The idea is to make it more attractive and accessible,” said Durham, who’s responsible for franchise development. “We’re actively working to grow the market because there’s so much growth potential.”