Rib City Express opens first Southwest Florida location
The first Rib City Express opened its doors in Lehigh Acres Thursday near the Lehigh Regional Medical Center.
Rib City Express offers a fast-casual spin to the formerly full-service Rib City, which opened in the late 1990s.
Through the express concept, guests can still experience the same quality barbecue dishes as Rib City’s traditional full-service locations, with access to faster, counter service and self-seating options.
In a recent Rib City press release, Paul Peden, managing partner of Rib City stated “We are always seeking opportunities to continue our growth and expand the Rib City brand. We have been looking to launch a fast-casual version of Rib City for a while and with COVID-19 changing the way we operate all our stores; it was the perfect time to launch Rib City Express.”
According to Rib City Express Manager Patrick Kasey, while the COVID-19 pandemic did present the opportunity for a business model change, the express concept was already in the works as industry trends moved more towards express dining.
“We were already looking into overhead costs and knew that the restaurant industry was leaning towards a more on-the-go approach to dining when you consider the success of places such as Panera Bread who continues to grow. We thought this was the right time to make the renovations and reopen with the new concept,” Kasey said.
Kasey also pointed out that Rib City has always catered to patrons who wanted their food to go.
“What we basically did is just improve upon our times, while still keeping the same quality. What normally took us 20 minutes to have ready has now been cut down to 7 minutes. We have state-of-the-art equipment that allows us to keep the quality, just with faster times,” Kasey said.
Even with the express style, Kasey says the restaurant will keep that family feel.
“We will still have our staff here to assist customers and want to offer our customers that personal feel. We also just got a new free-style Coke machine with more than 140 flavors and, of course, our famous sweet tea is unlimited to guests,” Kasey said. “So far customers have been really impressed by the speed. We have our curb-side service as well,” Kasey said.
Rib City’s new dcor features dividers to separate booths, with shields up for back-to-back protection. Tables are spaced out the required six feet apart.
“Presently the restaurant is at 100 percent occupancy. We can even accommodate larger groups and families and still be able to provide that safe distancing,” Kasey added.
Rib City Express’s menu offers its barbecue as a full-service Rib City including cheese fries, fried okra, buffalo chicken tenders, Skyscraper BBQ sandwiches, Smokehouse favorites like Baby Back and St. Louis style ribs, smoked chicken and beef brisket as well as desserts and kid’s meals.
According to Kasey, the great thing about Rib City’s business model is that it’s flexible and able to adapt to the times.
“Larger companies like Apple Bees and Chilies have had to close their doors due to this pandemic, some of them for good because of overhead costs. Our business model allowed us to change at a fast pace and meet the necessary safety requirements without losing quality,” Kasey said.
Rib City Express is at 1480 Lee Blvd, Lehigh Acres. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Rib City Express in Port Charlotte, the second of its concept, will open in late October 2020.
Rib City was founded in 1989 and now operates 13 corporate restaurants in Florida with 11 locations in Southwest Florida, and 12 franchise restaurants across the country including Washington, Colorado, Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri and Virginia.
For more information or to view Rib City’s complete menu visit www.ribcity.com