The quick service vision that initially began buzzing around the brains of co-founders 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 official Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express – built from the ground up. In early February 2014, proud new owner Tom Alvarez opened the doors to Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express of Lake Mary – located at 3801 Lake Mary Boulevard – ushering in a new era for the Florida-based chain with a 34-year history of success 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,” predicts Mills-Mawman. “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 has fulfilled a lifelong dream of owning his own business. His wealth of 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 quickly 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,” explains Alvarez. “I really like the fact that I’m from Jacksonville, and so is Woody’s. I also liked their new smaller QSR 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 overwhelming enthusiasm over Woody’s arrival on the Lake Mary scene and kudos for his restaurant’s great food, early feedback received from Alvarez’ first fans includes praise of his “beautiful restaurant.” The Lake Mary Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express boasts 2500 square feet, a comfortable 65-seat dining room, high-end lighting, and eye-catching graphics as opposed to the picnic tables and kitschy décor to which Woody’s Bar-B-Q fans have become accustomed in the full-service restaurants. Alvarez’ ground-breaking restaurant will serve as an archetype for future Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express locations. Manager – Judy D’Agostino – brings 25 years of restaurant experience to the table, and the rest of the staff is made up of a blend of eager rookies and seasoned veterans well-prepared to provide fast and friendly service with a smile. Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express of Lake Mary currently 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,” says Alvarez. “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.”
Alvarez and his staff plan to host a Grand Opening event in the Spring. Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express of Lake Mary is now open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. To place an order for take-out, Lake Mary barbecue fans are invited to call (407) 732-7604. Prospective franchisees who wish to learn more about opening a Woody’s Bar-B-Q Express of their own are encouraged to visit the Franchise page at www.woodys.com and fill out an online information request form.
After opening their first Woody’s Bar-B-Q in 1980, partners Woody Mills and Yolanda Mills-Mawman have spent the past three decades setting the “bar” higher for great Southern Bar-B-Q. From the humble beginnings of just one location in Jacksonville, Florida, a shared passion for Bar-B-Q, and a dog-eared collection of recipes, Mills and Mawman have grown the Woody’s Bar-B-Q brand to locations reaching from the Deep South where Bar-B-Q is king to the Northeast and Western fronts. Perhaps best known for their legendary melt-in-your-mouth slow-smoked Signature Baby Back Ribs, Woody’s has also built quite a following among patrons with their secret recipe Bar-B-Q sauces and meats, as well as their freshly prepared side dishes.