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Carrabba’s Opens In Palm Coast, Edging the City’s Economic Center of Gravity a Little North

| December 10, 2012

After a soft opening over the weekend, Carrabba’s opened in Palm Coast this afternoon, solidifying business growth along Cypress Edge Drive, where Florida Hospital Flagler’s satellite clinic, visible in the near distance, opened in summer. The man in black is not a reapparition of Johnny Cash but Jon Netts, Palm Coast’s mayor, making a lunch date with the reapparition of Alan Peterson, the former Flagler County Commissioner. Palm Coast City Council members Bill Lewis and Jason DeLorenzo are to their right. (C FlaglerLive)

Given the nature of an economy for so long at low simmer in Palm Coast, a restaurant opening is the tale of two menus. The new food on offer is the main course. The economic benefit is dessert. Both were more or less in evidence at the official opening of Carrabbas’s Italian Grill this afternoon in Palm Coast, along with a small group of city and business leaders who’d turned up to toast the occasion.

Carrabba’s makes its name with rich Italian fare: Fettucini alfredo, chicken parmesan in coats of breadcrumbs, chicken bryan ravioli, the odd lobster in ponds of butter, appetizers that crackle with the siren call of the frier, desserts layered in the word “triple.” It’s the sort of menu that recalls a time when eating wasn’t synonymous with guilt, which is partly why its creators opened the first Carrabba in Houston almost 30 years ago: to make diners feel as if they were eating at home.

Jon Netts, Palm Coast’s mayor, is in the habit of going up to St. Augustine with his wife and another couple once a month, for dinner at the Carrabba there, until now the restaurant chain’s closest beachhead to Palm Coast. No more such trips. “I’d much rather spend money locally,” Netts said, waiting for the ribbon-cutting alongside City Councilman Bill Lewis.

Carrabba’s is the latest in a slow but steady string of national restaurant chains to open in Palm Coast. In February 2011 the opening of a Red Lobster and Olive Garden that share a kitchen drew well over 1,000 applicants for roughly 200 jobs, most of them part-time. That was near the height of the county’s unemployment crisis. Earlier this year, Panera Bread opened not far east on State Road 100.

With Carrabba’s arrival, there’s this: 82 new jobs (in addition to a few managerial jobs filled mostly by Carrabba’s veterans imported from elsewhere), the addition of one more solid business on Cypress Edge, where just last summer Florida Hospital Flagler opened its satellite clinic, and where, in a few months, another national chain (Zaxby’s) will open a Palm Coast location. And there’s this: the new restaurant paid $206,400 in a variety of impact fees, the one-time tax on construction that defrays the cost of infrastructure such as roads, parks and schools. Beau Falgout, a senior planner in the Palm Coast administration and a point man on economic development, estimates the property taxes will be just over $4,000 a year—not much, but nowhere near the sales tax revenue the business will generate for the state and the county. The additional jobs, Falgout said, should help notch down the county’s declining unemployment rate a bit further.

There are less tangible but no less significant benefits.

“Carrabba’s provides another dining option along with our other great restaurants where our citizens can stay here in Palm Coast and dine here and not have to get on the highway to go visit another Carraba’s,” Falgout said. “That’s a great sign that businesses continue to invest in Palm Coast. It’s very hopeful for the future.” Falgout underscores the vibrancy of new businesses along Cypress Edge, which to some extent depend on each others’ success: the hospital’s clientele and staff will patronize the restaurants and retail outlets along the drive, and solidify growth there.

The city’s center of gravity, however, appears to be moving north, somewhat at the expense of Town Center, which had been designed as Palm Coast’s new hub. But Falgout sees it differently: the periphery of Town Center has been filling up with businesses as solid as those now growing along Cypress Edge. As those choice locations fill up, Town Center’s interiors will start picking up with commercial construction. Same thing along Old Kings Road, Falgout says: once Walmart decides to build at the southern edge of the road, near State Road 100, other businesses will follow. (Walmart is waiting to see a further pickup in building permits before deciding to build, Falgout said.)

Meanwhile, the county and the city are treating the Carrabba’s opening as a vote of confidence. “It’s exciting that a widely known and respect company is coming to invest in our community,” says Rebecca DeLorenzo, interim president of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. “82 new jobs isn’t too shabby either, so it’s been all very exciting.” The chamber facilitated Carrabba’s search for a non-profit partner, offering up its venue for a series of meetings that led to the Florida Hospital Foundation.

Tonight, 50 percent of Carrabba’s opening night sales (up to five thousand dollars) will benefit the foundation. “It is an honor to work with Carrabba’s on its opening night event,” said John Subers, Florida Hospital Flagler Foundation administrative director, who was at the grand opening at 4 p.m. “We think it’s a great way for Carrabba’s to get to know the community and are very excited that the organization has made a commitment to our community. The funds raised tonight will help Florida Hospital Flagler continue to provide the very best health care to the community that we serve.”

“We are excited to welcome our neighbors in to enjoy hand-prepared dishes made from scratch using only the freshest ingredient,” said Mike Xifaras, Managing Partner of the Palm Coast Carrabba’s, who moved his family from Virginia to take on a five-year commitment at the local franchise.

Carrabba’s is part of Bloomin’ Brands Inc., a holding company that operates 1,248 restaurants, including Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar and Roy’s. Bloomin’ Brands was formerly known as OCI Restaurant Partners, and was formed by an investor group that included Bain Capital, the firm once headed by Mitt Romney. Bain and its partners still retain a controlling stake. The company went public in August, when it had $2.1 billion in total debt (part of the reason it went public was to raise $300 million and pay $248 million in bonds), and today was trading at just over $15 a share.

In the three months ending on Sept. 30, it reported $953 million in revenue, up 2.7 percent over the same period a year earlier. Its 9-month revenue, ending in September, was $2.99 billion, up 3.6 percent over the same period a year earlier.

Located at 160 Cypress Edge Drive, Carrabba’s Italian Grill is open Mon. to Thurs. from 4 – 10 p.m.; Fri. from 4 – 11 p.m.; Sat. from 12-11p.m.; and Sun. from 12 p.m. – 9 p.m. Call ahead seating, and Carside Carry-Out is available by calling the restaurant at 386-246-9839. Carside Carry-Out is also now available by Ordering Online. For more information about Carrabba’s, please visit www.Carrabbas.com, www.Facebook.com/Carrabbas or www.Twitter.com/Carrabbas.

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31 Responses for “Carrabba’s Opens In Palm Coast, Edging the City’s Economic Center of Gravity a Little North”

  1. Ben Blakely says:

    Best of luck to Carrabba’s and remember to let your belt out another notch.

  2. Laura says:

    The waitstaff was happy & on top of their game,
    the Calamari Ricardo, sublime.
    With rain & threat of tornadoes in the air,
    we gastronomes jumped puddles
    to welcome Carrabba’s into the fabric of Palm Coast.

    Buon Appetito!

    {{* *}}

  3. Bronx Guy says:

    Very poor planning has gone on in this latest development in Palm Coast. Traffic on that road is terrible now and just wait until Zaxbys and the dollar store open. Why did the new right lane end at the first entrance to the medical plaza and why was it not extended all the way to the dollar store? Or will that be done next year? And what about that second exit out of Wallmart where one is forced to go right and then make a u-turn when possible? Please tell us who does that planning? Someone just cannot see the big picture.

  4. PJ says:

    Welcome, great to have you !

  5. Shark says:

    Wow – 82 more low paying jobs. Landon sure is earning th $200,000 per year pay check!!!!

  6. Shark says:

    More tax money for Landon to piss away on Palm Coast signs!!!

    • Bronx Guy says:

      I agree with Shark Remember the $20 million dollars he suddenly found to build the new city hall. Actually, the city may move back to its previous location as Palm Coast Data is not doing well. When did they last disclose their employment level?

  7. PCer says:

    I love Carrabba’s and can’t wait to visit. I would like to see more shopping in Palm Coast. Ann Taylor, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Men’s Warehouse, Coach, any or all of these would make me very happy. :)

    • Nancy N. says:

      You’re dreaming if you think the money exists in this community to support upscale shopping like many of the stores you just listed. It’s no coincidence that all the major retailers that have opened here are discounters (with the exception of Belk – which is always deserted – I don’t know how they stay open). That’s what this town’s budget is with the exception of a very few residents.

      An Old Navy could maybe make it here, but they would be seriously hampered by the school uniform policy and so probably wouldn’t see this as a desirable market. Gap isn’t opening any new stores at all – they are on the verge of complete collapse. They’ll be lucky to exist this time next year. This community is way too casual to be a good market for Men’s Warehouse. Barely anyone wears suits Mon-Fri around here. Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and Coach are way way way too upscale to be profitable in this community. For the forseeable future you will have to drive to Jacksonville/Orlando to go to those stores. It takes a market that big to support stores that upscale.

  8. The Truth says:

    Many seem to miss the big picture when it comes to these restaurants. These places are bringing jobs, but more importantly they’re bringing a stronger infrastructure for larger companies and corporations to relocate here. Many companies who have large amounts of employees don’t want to move to an area that has no dining options for clients or for their employees. These restaurants that come into the area do go a long way in helping that process along.

  9. FBGrl says:

    Carrabba’s.. haven’t been there in years and never did like their food. Has the menu changed any? I think I’m more excited for Zaxby’s and their Blue Buffalo Salad!

    PCer – Boy that would be nice! :) We’re not a big enough populous to command those stores in our city especially since we have Daytona and St. Augustine so close. What I’d LOVE to see (but likely never will) is a decent natural foods market like Whole Foods. Honestly it is the absolute only thing I miss about Orlando…. still glad to be back home regardless.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Would love to see Costco come to Flagler County. It would draw business from south St. Augustine, Ormond Beach as well as Daytona, and I’d be able to quit schlepping to Jacksonville.

  11. tulip says:

    @PCer I agree with you, more shopping options and less eating places. While I am glad we have some nice restaurants here and that Carrabas has joined it seems that Palm Coast is becoming a giant food court.

    @BRONX Guy You are correct about the road, it was already becoming congested because of the businesses that are already there, mainly Lowes, Belks and Golden Corral,. I think we will see a lot of traffic pile up or worse.

  12. Henry says:

    There goes that group of city “leaders” eating for free. Shame on them!!!

  13. wsh302@msn.com says:

    Jobs, low paying under 40 or maybe 30 hours a week with no medical benifits. a great accomplishment by our great leaders. use your brains that you say you have and start bringing in corporate jobs that will give a wage enabling people to buy a house and not live with 2 or three other families in a duplex. and as far as staying here to eat, every opportunity i get i head 95 north to jacksonville to Maggiano’s Little Italy for good italian food and a change of scenery after living here 24-7

  14. Jojo says:

    The traffic pattern was designed very poorly especially exiting the lower parking lot of Wal Mart opposite Woody’s BBQ. The traffic backs up because the traffic signal on Cypress Point Pkwy changes quickly otherwise traffic will backup.

    Why doesn’t the City put a light on the other end of Wal Mart onto Cypress Point Pkwy. It would greatly relieve the backup at the other end. As it stands now you have to make that right there and make a U turn at that congested corner creating more traffic.

    Oh, Welcome Carrabba’s.

  15. patty says:

    All well and good but it seems that the city fathers and the chamber welcome big national chains while they let the small local mom and pop restaurants wither on the vine. Jobs may be created by the chains but local job creators and their investments go down the drain. Dont want to be a Debbie Downer but thats the truth.

  16. glad fly says:

    overpriced. it will last about a year. this is a beans and taters town.

  17. glad fly says:

    @PCer….i want what you’re smoking.

  18. Alex says:

    One more place to load up on cholesterol.

    I hope the people in the picture see what I see.

    8.5% sales tax is the only benefit for the community.

  19. Stevie says:

    “Beau Falgout, a senior planner in the Palm Coast administration and a point man on economic development, estimates the property taxes will be just over $4,000 a year—not much, but nowhere near the sales tax revenue the business will generate for the state and the county. The additional jobs, Falgout said, should help notch down the county’s declining unemployment rate a bit further.”

    That’s the mindset in Palm Coast……The business exists to fund government and provide an expansion of government, security for government, and more demand for government. The government is willing to take one on the chin for low property taxes, but make it all back in fees, usurer taxes, and what ever else they can dream up to pad their wallets.

    Thank goodness the mayor won’t have to go to St Augustine anymore for dinner. I wish I could just afford a big mac.

    Beam me up Scotty.

  20. Will says:

    Darn it – I’m beginning to think that if Jesus came back to earth in Palm Coast, 27 of FlaglerLive’s finest writers would complain about the time of day, the location, the traffic, the weather, the menu at the closest restaurant, where the city’s trucks were and whether the city council was offered appetizers at a reception.

    Give it a break, people. We have a new business, more people are working, and some folks are happy. Could it be better – probably – but it doesn’t deserve complaint after complaint!

  21. Jojo says:

    And it’s free too. Did someone say cholesterol. One sitting is a months worth. Eat up and leave nothing for tomorrow you can die. Silly me, I meant diet.

  22. Shark says:

    Another company owned by Bain!!!!!!

  23. Anon says:

    “82 new jobs isn’t too shabby either, so it’s been all very exciting.”

    Really? Exciting, huh? Since the managerial jobs are being filled by existing employees from other locations, most if not all of these jobs are part-time, low-wage and most likely lack benefits as well as a regular schedule, making it tougher to coordinate another part-time job to hopefully equal a full-time income.

    Yahoo! – more low pay jobs- that’s a way to grow an economy!

  24. Lily says:

    What about dollar tree when does that open

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