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Two families bringing new restaurants to Palm Beach County

It’s all in the family for two restaurant chains expanding to Palm Beach County.

The Tracy family, featuring a Tequesta father and three sons behind the Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises in the region, has opened the first county location of a growing national franchise: Newk’s Eatery in Palm Beach Gardens.

And the family-owned Ciccio Restaurant Group from Florida’s west coast is bringing Fresh Kitchen, or FK, to Boca Raton.

Tom Tracy, along with sons Pat, Matt and Ryan, is opening Newk’s local franchise locations. The first one opened Oct. 12 in the Legacy Place shopping center on PGA Boulevard, just west of the The Gardens Mall.

In a recent interview, Tracy said he and his sons were scouting for another restaurant franchise outside of Five Guys.

They liked the Jackson, Miss.-based Newk’s because of its variety, including healthy food choices such as salads. Newk’s also offers sandwiches, pizza and homemade soups.

“It’s delicious food and the atmosphere is beautiful,” Tracy said of Newk’s.

For those craving a little comfort food, Newk’s also features mac ‘n’ cheese. And beer.

Newk’s is a fast-casual concept founded in 2004 by Don Newcomb, Debra Bryson and Chris Newcomb. The team had previously created and launched McAlister’s Deli.

The fast-casual Newk’s at Legacy Place is 4,500 square feet, features 130 seats inside and 60 seats outside, Tracy said. Customers place their order, receive a table marker and then wait for their food to be delivered to them tableside, he said.

Fast-casual also is on the menu at FK.

The concept is the brainchild of Steven Lanza, son of James Lanza, founder of Ciccio Restaurant Group. Ciccio Restaurant Group is named after Lanza’s father, Frank (Ciccio) Lanza, who was a successful Fortune 100 CEO and founder of L-3 Communications. Frank Lanza passed away in 2006.

Ciccio Restaurant Group now has seven restaurant concepts, including Green Lemon, serving Mexican food, and Daily Eats, offering burgers and sandwiches.

Steven said he created FK for him and his health-conscious family. “We love to exercise and eat healthy,” he said. “So we create this for ourselves. If we love it, we’ll find a way to make it successful.”

Lanza’s brother, Matthew, added, “There was no place to get restaurant-quality, chef-driven food fast.”

FK serves bowls featuring a choice of a base, such as brown rice or sweet potato mash, veggies, proteins (including tofu) and sauces. Cold-press juices are offered, too.

FK is gluten-free, not because anyone in the family had a gluten intolerance but just because Steven said he has more energy skipping gluten. “I feel like I don’t need a nap,” he said.

The 4-year-old FK now has three locations on Florida’s west coast, including the trendy dining and entertainment district of Tampa called SoHo.

Matthew said Ciccio was going to expand the other brands statewide, but after Fresh Kitchen first opened in Tampa, “it blew up … So we ended up canceling our growth plans for the other restaurants and focusing on Fresh Kitchen.”

The Palm Beach County FK is set to open in the in the first quarter of 2017 at the Park Place shopping center on Military Trail, just south of Office Depot.

Lanza said the company selected the Park Place shopping center because of its proximity to two high schools, two universities, many residential communities plus a nearby office park, the Park at Broken Sound.

Both families have ambitious plans to expand their concepts further.

Tracy and family plan to open 10 Newk’s locations from Broward County to Palm Beach County, and up to Martin and St. Lucie counties. Tracy predicts that some stores will be in retail centers that are set to open in growing parts of the county, including in western communities now being planned and developed.

Indeed, Tracy said Newk’s plans a big expansion outside of its 104 stores in 14 states. The company hopes to have 200 locations nationwide by 2018. Florida is a key state for growth and some 30 sites are expected to open during the next five years.

Location for Tracy is key: He said two Five Guys stores in West Palm Beach failed because they didn’t capture enough business both at lunch at dinner. One was on Village Boulevard; a second, on Clematis Street, lasted only 10 months.

Five Guys, the popular national hamburger chain based in Virginia, has eight locations from Boca Raton up to Port St. Lucie, all owned by Tracy.

As for Fresh Kitchen, Matthew Lanza said he’s “looking everywhere” for new store locations, including in northern Palm Beach County.

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.

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