Culpepper’s has decided it needs a new playbook, and it’s hoping the fans will give it another try. Signs in front of the restaurant on University Boulevard announce the restaurant has a new management team and new menus.
“That sign is basically our way of telling people, ‘We heard you,’” said Frank Bruno, the restaurant’s new general manager. Culpepper’s opened in September to mostly negative reviews (here’s a link to mine). Its current score on Urbanspoon is a decidedly low 51%. (I begin to question a restaurant’s veracity when its score drops below 80%.)
Bruno may be the right person to lead Culpepper’s to a higher score. Whether the fans will give the place is second chance is another question. Bruno has experience with the Talk of the Town restaurant group (Charley’s Steakhouse, Vito’s Chophouse, FishBones). After a brief phone conversation with him, I’m encouraged that things can be turned around. He was able to identify some major problems, including the limitations of the kitchen’s equipment, something few people think about when planning a menu.
Bruno said that Culpepper’s would be transitioning from the “upscale sports bar” meme it was going for to more of a neighborhood grill with a sports and UCF tie in. There will be game nights, and there will be other nights that guests know they can go in and dine without a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ around them.
Bruno said he expects that it will take a couple of months for all the changes, including training of the staff, to take a couple of months. I’m looking forward to trying it again. The east side of Orlando is a desert of independently owned restaurants. We all want to see places like this succeed.
Culpepper’s, of course, is named for former UCF football quarterback and NFL player Daunte Culpepper. Culpepper lives in South Florida, but Bruno said that he has been at the restaurant a number of times, especially following home games, serving as guest maitre d’ and signing autographs.
While we wait for Culpepper’s to find its footing, I’m wondering if anyone is talking to the outgoing UCF quarterback about a post-NFL business. Bortles’ Bar & Grill, anyone?