NYC restaurant barons are riding Florida’s pandemic wave to open new locations outside of Miami

New York restaurateurs who came to Miami during the pandemic are expanding their empires to other coastal cities in Florida — and some of the biggest names have even made the Sunshine State their permanent home.

The latest wave of openings in cash-strapped resort towns like Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Pompano Beach comes as Florida becomes a new financial hub, with firms opening offices at Millennium Management, Citadel, Elliott Management and Sanders Capital.

Jeff Zalaznik and Mario Carbone — two of the three owners of Major Food Group, of Carbone fame — have moved to Florida and plan to open four restaurants in The Boca Raton this month. Additional dining locations will open to bolster MFG’s 10 Florida restaurants that have opened in the past two years in Palm Beach and West Palm.

“Florida is a great place to be, both personally and professionally,” Zalaznik, who was in Florida with his family on spring break in 2020 when New York was locked down, told Side Dish.

“The lights went out and we saw Miami. It was an exciting place to be during the pandemic because it was relatively never closed, and I saw a lot of opportunity,” Zalaznik said. “There was a large segment of people looking for great food and experiential dining that was different from the nightclub restaurants in South Beach. . I thought I was going to bring everyone down and everything snowballed. I fell in love with living there. It’s great for business and for my family.”

Jeff Zalaznik (left), Mario Carbone (center) and Rich Torrisi of Basic Food Group.
Main food group

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11_El Camino's newest location at The Square in West Palm Beach.

El Camino’s newest location in West Palm Beach.

El Camino is a 300-seat, 8,500-square-foot restaurant.

El Camino is a 300-seat, 8,500-square-foot restaurant.

Many Big Apple restaurants followed. But Miami’s abundance of restaurants and high prices are forcing them to spread their wings beyond South Beach, Brickell and the Design District.

El Camino Mexican soul food restaurant and tequila bar — founded by South Florida transplants from New York, Brandon Belluscio, Brian Albe and Anthony Pizzo — opened a 300-seat, 8,500-square-foot restaurant at The Square West Palm Beach in July. This is in addition to their outposts in Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale. It plans to open another branch in Boca Raton next year because it has a high-end clientele.

“It’s really the best of both worlds for them, and restaurateurs are benefiting from the influx of new residents and New York professionals moving here with disposable income,” said Frances Lake, vice president of El Camino restaurants for Modern Restaurant Group. president.

Brandon Freid, CEO of The Impulsive Group, has brought an outpost of Sushi Lab, which first opened in Midtown’s Sanctuary Hotel in 2019, to Pompano Beach at the Residence Inn by Marriott. The restaurant opened on November 18.

Brandon Freid and Hank Freid, founders of Sushi Lab
Brandon Freid and Hank Freid, founders of Sushi Lab
Sushi Lab
Food at the Sushi Lab
A new Sushi Lab outpost opened last month.
Sushi Lab Pompano Beach

“We wanted Miami, but everything was saturated and had been for years, so we looked at the coastline. We wanted the oceanfront,” Freud told Side Dish. “The omakase counter faces the ocean. It’s a wonderful sight.”

In 2019, Impulsive Group paid $44 million for the Residence Inn by Marriott and $21 million for the nearby Sands Harbor Resort & Marina — a five-acre waterfront site that includes three restaurants, an office building and a gas station. marina

“In retrospect, it was a very good purchase. There were very large companies that owned the land and were just waiting for development,” Freud said, referring to current projects by The Ritz Carlton and Related Group. “We’ve been sitting in the gaps and waiting for an opening. Things are happening in South Florida and growing fast.”

Australia’s Barry Dry’s Parched Hospitality Group, which launched Hole in the Wall in the Big Apple in 2014, also opened Isla & Co. in Palm Beach.

Dishes by Isla & Co.
Dishes by Isla & Co.
Isla & Co.

“New York is seasonal. Now we can employ people full time,” said Dry, who has nine eateries in New York and a 10th in Fairfield, Conn.

Opening new eateries in Florida made sense for “many” reasons, Dry added.

“It’s easy to get there, there’s a lot of direct flights from New York, and it’s very easy to get a liquor license, a business license, to open an account,” Dry said. “It is important that the brand resonates there as well. This is a very similar target group and customer base. It was an easy transition, not off the grid, and resonated well with New York.


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