Columbia County Residents Are Looking For More Local Restaurants

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With the announces new KFC in Evans recently and the opening of Wendy’s in Martinez last week, Columbia County’s restaurant list continues to grow, despite a slow growing trend in restaurant development due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Robbie Bennett, executive director of county development. Authority.

As the county continues to add large companies like the new two Amazon fulfillment centers and another anonymous occupant in the White Oak Business Park, the need and desire for more restaurants is increasing.

Where’s the beef… and the bars?

When asked what types of restaurants she would like to see in Columbia County, Martinez resident Cynthia Stuckey replied, “other than chicken, pizza or burgers.”

“A bagel store would be great,” she said. “But we always like local places better.”

Columbia County residents like Stuckey have expressed on social media and in the community the lack of variety in restaurants – with some saying the entire area is made up of chicken and Mexican restaurants.

But of the 227 fast food and fast food restaurants that The Augusta Chronicle has counted in the 290 square mile county, 10.1% are chicken restaurants, including Zaxby’s, KFC, and Wild Wing Cafe. Another 10.1% are Mexican restaurants. Fast food establishments represent 11.8% and pizzas on site, take out and delivery represent 11%.

“We’ve had a lot of them in the past like Pickles, Twisted Burrito… but they never seem to last,” said Nora Goolsby. “Everyone seems to want it but then it doesn’t. I don’t understand.”

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Columbia County will apparently gain another chicken restaurant in the old PDQ location at the corner of North Belair and Washington Roads. Jordan Trotter Real Estate announced on his Facebook page in January that Slim Chickens, an Arkansas-based chain, would be there and teams have been spotted working on the building in recent weeks. County records also confirm that Slim Evans LLC purchased the building. Attempts to reach Slim Chickens for comment were unsuccessful.

But, as Bennett pointed out, the area is full of ethnic restaurants if people are willing to step out of their comfort zone and possibly move to another part of the county for dinner. Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Korean, German and Italian restaurants account for 21.1% of local restaurants.

“There is a nice strain here that has been happening over the past couple of years,” Bennett said.

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The catering offers in the minority include:

  • Sandwiches and delicatessens like Subway and McAllister’s – 6.6%
  • Coffees including Panera Bread, Starbucks and Rooted – 6.6%
  • Burger restaurants like Bobby’s Cheeseburger and Gary’s Hamburgers – 4.8%
  • Diners including Waffle House and That Flippin Egg – 4.4%
  • Family-style restaurants like The Acorn Restaurant and Goolsby’s – 3.9%
  • American restaurant chains including Chili’s and Applebee’s – 3%
  • Barbecue – 2.6%
  • Upscale restaurants such as Cadwallader’s and Cork and Flame – 1.3%
  • Seafood – 1.7%
  • Steakhouses – 0.8%

What is conspicuously absent from restaurants in Columbia County are the bars. The county has a strict policy that restaurants must earn at least 50% of business income from the sale of food. In February, Belair’s tavern closed as it did not meet county requirements in its kitchen. Last month, the End Zone in Grovetown also lost its liquor license.

The county is not completely avoiding the alcohol trade. Earlier this year it was announced that Roll On In Sushi and Burritos and Buzzed Bull Creamery would move into a combined space at the Plaza at Evans Towne Center.

Buzzed Bull Creamery offers made-to-order milkshakes with an option to include alcohol.

Bennett said if residents want to see more bar-style restaurants, they should contact local commissioners to make their requests known. For restaurateurs keen to establish a bar, he is happy to work with them to meet county requirements.

“I will respond to their needs and see what we can do to help them be successful,” he said.

Development incentives

Restaurants face a number of hurdles to start and operate, and the Development Authority helps business owners overcome some of the hurdles they face, including finances.

With the Destination Retail Incentive Program, businesses can receive grants and low-interest loans from the Development Authority. Bennett said the agency has $ 400,000 in the budget to help businesses financially and the office has seen very few eligible businesses apply.

“We’ve had conversations with some companies that I think would be a perfect fit, but right now it’s all about timing and recovering from the effects of COVID,” he said.

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Go west, young man

In Evans, Grovetown and Martinez, it’s easy to find a restaurant nearby. In Appling and Harlem, they are few in number – but that could change.

The I-20 exit at kilometer 183 is developing rapidly, in the same way that exit 190 in Grovetown has changed in recent years. The Department of Transportation is expanding the Appling Harlem Expressway to accommodate higher traffic volumes at the new Amazon fulfillment center and other warehouses in the White Oak Business Park. A subdivision is also underway and a Sprint Foods store was also recently added. With enough room to grow, restaurants could be next, but Bennett said restaurateurs want to see the numbers first.

“They need to see people on the ground and understand how many people are going to be working at Amazon and Club Car and what that long-term growth will be,” he said.

Bennett said the Development Authority was in conversation with existing businesses with food trucks about setting up near the business park to test the waters and potentially set up a brick and mortar location later. .

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