Another restaurant brand is moving its headquarters to Orlando. To downtown Orlando, yet. What’s more, it’s moving into the same building that already is home to a global restaurant brand. And neither one has a restaurant in the downtown area.
FoodFirst Global Restaurants, Inc., is the company that is moving in. You probably don’t recognize that name, but you’re likely familiar with Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina Italiana, two Italian brands with locations in the area. (Well, there was a Bravo at the Dellagio plaza but it closed about a month ago.) FoodFirst is a new company that formed in Columbus, Ohio, which is where Brio and Bravo got their starts. Currently, those two brands are the only ones in FoodFirst’s portfolio, but that’s almost certain to change.
That’s because FF’s Founder, Owner-Partner, Chairman & CEO is Brad Blum, who for many years was an executive with Darden Restaurants and was president of the Olive Garden division. After leaving Darden, Blum had stints as CEO of Burger King and Romano’s Macaroni Grill. He was also the owner of Dogmatic, an upstart hot dog concept on E. 17th Street near Union Square in New York that is closed.
But throughout that time, Blum has kept his home in Winter Park. Thus the move from Columbus to Orlando. Another reason: Columbus vs. Orlando.
“As a long-time resident of Winter Park, FL, I have been an admirer of the way in which the greater Orlando area has grown,” Blum said in a press release. “Our new company headquarters will be an excellent environment as we work together to foster innovation. It is a diverse community and has a great deal of international tourism.”
FoodFirst is slated to move into downtown’s CNL building, which is also home to Red Lobster’s corporate offices and test kitchen. You’ll recall that Red Lobster was originally a Darden brand that was spun off a few years ago.
FoodFirst has said it will build a test kitchen facility but it isn’t clear at this time if it would be in the CNL building or elsewhere. Red Lobster has an elaborate state of the art kitchen facility there as well as a mockup of a Red Lobster restaurant for training — it is not open to the public.
The two Brios in the area are at Winter Park Village and Mall at Millenia. The new parent company will focus on growing its two current brands. It will also be changing their names to Brio Italian Mediterranean and Bravo Fresh Italian. According to the statement, FoodFirst will maintain the support center in Ohio.
Besides Darden and now FoodFirst, Orlando and Central Florida are also home to headquarters for RomaCorp, Tony Roma’s and TR Fire Grill; Earl Enterprises, parent of Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo, Earl of Sandwich and Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, among others; Hard Rock Cafe; Tavistock Restaurants; Ruth’s Hospitality Group; Sonny’s Barbecue; and the quickly growing 4R Restaurant Group.