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The quick-service vision that initially began buzzing around the brains of cofounders Woody Mills and Yolanda Mills-Mawman in 2007 recently became a full-blown reality for Southern barbecue franchise Woody’s Bar-B-Q. After debuting a full-service-location-turned-fast-casual-prototype in late 2012, the company tightened and tweaked the concept before finding the ideal franchisee to premiere the first Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express built from the ground up. In early February 2014, new owner Tom Alvarez opened the doors to Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express of Lake Mary, Floria, ushering in a new era for the chain with a 34-year history as a full-service concept.
“While our full-service models will remain alive and well, we do expect a very positive response to the Express concept from patrons and prospective franchisees alike,” Mills-Mawman says. “All of the great slow-smoked barbecue, comfort food sides, welcoming atmosphere and great service that put Woody’s Bar-B-Q on the map will remain true to both the full-service and Express models, but the new quick-service concept will feature smaller restaurants and streamlined operations for our guests who simply need to eat and run. We believe Tom’s extensive background in the corporate world gives him a unique perspective of the needs of many of the professionals in the Lake Mary area who want a great meal for lunch, but don’t have much time to wait, as well as those who wish to pick up a terrific meal to take home at the end of a long work day.”
After 35 years in the insurance and risk management industry, Alvarez fulfilled a lifelong dream of owning his own business. His experience in providing a positive customer experience makes him the ideal match for the service industry. Once he’d narrowed his search of franchises down to restaurant chains, his love of barbecue led him to Woody’s Bar-B-Q.
“Barbecue is a competitive market in Florida, and I happen to prefer the flavor of Woody’s food, especially the pulled and sliced pork and freshly prepared sides,” Alvarez says. “I really like the fact that I’m from Jacksonville, and so is Woody’s. I also liked their new smaller [quick-serve] operation, which is a great fit for upcoming trends in the foodservice industry, but still features a customer focus. In terms of the speed element, the lunch rush is when time is at a premium. The Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express model is more conducive to a quick in-and-out experience that is centered around a good made-to-order meal. Of course, if they don’t have to rush out, our guests are always welcome to stay as long as they like.”
In addition to enthusiasm over Woody’s arrival on the Lake Mary scene and kudos for his restaurant’s great food, early feedback received from Alvarez’ first guests includes praise for his restaurant design. The Lake Mary Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express boasts 2,500 square feet, a 65-seat dining room, high-end lighting, and eye-catching graphics. Alvarez’s restaurant will serve as an archetype for future Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express locations. Manager Judy D'Agostino brings 25 years of restaurant to the table, and the rest of the staff is made up of a blend of rookies and seasoned veterans. Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express of Lake Mary offers dine-in and take-out to local patrons, but will soon add catering for church events, special occasions, business luncheons, and sports banquets to its list of offerings.
“I selected Lake Mary as the location for my Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express because I used to work in Seminole County and often frequented the shops and restaurants here,” Alvarez says. “It’s a terrific area with a large business base, but great barbecue was something it was lacking—until now. I look forward to becoming more involved in the local community, from schools and scouts to athletics and community events. I want Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express to become the go-to barbecue place in Lake Mary.”