Ford's Garage Coming to Lakeland 2017

LAKELAND — Ford’s Garage, a burger and craft beer restaurant that gives you a glimpse into the classic car era of the 1920’s Model Ts is coming to Lakeland, Florida at the end of 2017.

Executives of 23 Restaurant Service, the Tampa-based parent company, said the new restaurant is on track to open sometime by the end of the year.

According to Chuck Barmby (Lakeland city planner), although they’re just in the initial phases of planning, the restaurant is looking into a location in Lakeland Park Center, north of Interstate 4.

“We have reviewed a conceptual plan. It’s still in the due-diligence phase,” he said, and the company has not yet submitted a site plan.

Licensed by Ford Motor Company to use its trademarked name, Ford’s Garage pays homage to the early days of motoring, specifically the 1920s, a period of transition that saw Ford’s Model T give way to a more modern Model A. The interior is designed to look and feel like a vintage garage, with cars suspended “on lifts” in each of the interior bar areas.

The restaurant labels itself as a gourmet burger bar, serving patties made from Black Angus or American Kobe beef, in addition to turkey, chicken, tuna, seafood and vegetarian models. Entrees also on the menu include steaks, ribs, grilled chicken, fish, and even pasta.

Ford’s menu includes a full liquor bar with a stable of premium spirits and cocktails; with servers dressed as mechanics. Orders can be as custom as you’d like from their build-your-own burger menu, that includes a large range of accessories like: Asian slaw, fried pickles, pulled barbecue pork and grilled shrimp. The restaurant also caters to children, serving old-fashioned malted milkshakes, macaroni-and-cheese, fries and sweet potato tots.

“It’s a lot of fun, the cars and the whole antique feel of it,” said Fulton Sykes, vice president of marketing for 23 Restaurant Services. “Children love it – the horns go off and smoke comes out of the Model T that’s (suspended) over the bar.”

Ford’s Garage currently has five locations, including three in the greater Fort Myers area, one in Brandon, and another in Wesley Chapel. Other locations scheduled to open this year are St. Petersburg, Westchase, and Countryside.

Marc Brown, president of 23 Restaurant Services, which operates other restaurant concepts, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal (last year) that he and his partners target an average of $5 million in annual sales at each location, adding that the Brandon location beat that target in its first year.

The Brandon store initially estimated a $2 million build out, but rising construction costs and labor shortages pushed the buildout costs to between $2.5 million and $3 million for each store, the Journal said.

The restaurants are financed by a combination of private investors and bank debt, Brown said.

Each restaurant employs between 120 and 150 people, said Sykes, a former marketing executive for Outback Steakhouse. All of the Ford’s Garage restaurants to date are corporate owned, she said, but the company’s first franchised operation will open in July in Dearborn, Mich.

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