"Our goal is to leverage the company's successful formula bylaunching an expansion plan that will enable us to continue ourgrowth through franchising," says Ker, who established hiscasual-dining chain in Largo in 1994 after retiring from theNational Football League. The new growth strategy will focusinitially on Southeastern states, with a long-term goal ofexpanding at least 250 units nationwide, he says.

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Ker's WingHouse offers chicken wings, hamburgers and branded hotsauces, plus draft beer and liquor, served by attractive waitresseswearing shorts and tank tops. Ker, who is from nearby Dunedin,played college football at the University of Florida and spentseven seasons in the NFL as an offensive guard from 1985-91.

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The chain, which prevailed against Atlanta-based Hooters ofAmerica Inc. in a 2003 trademark infringement lawsuit, looks totarget a variety of experienced, multi-unit operators and investorswith $1.5 million net worth and $600,000 liquidity. It also seeksto open in existing restaurant locations in good condition withhigh traffic counts, says Tom Dunn, vice president of franchisingfor Ker's WingHouse.

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"From a real estate perspective, we're finally starting to seesome deals," Dunn tells GlobeSt.com. "It's a good opportunity forus to come and start looking at available locations. The timing isright for us after 14 years."

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New locations for Ker's WingHouse will be a combination of newconstruction, freestanding stores and end-cap retail sites, Dunnsays. He adds that the chain has attempted to develop alongcorridors within its home state, along Interstate 4 between Tampaand Daytona Beach as well as from Fort Myers to Naples, West PalmBeach to Miami, and Jacksonville throughout the FloridaPanhandle.

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The chain's current locations, which are evenly owned andrented, range in size from 5,200 sf up to 10,000 sf with leaseterms averaging five years, according to Dunn. "We want to belong-term tenants," he says.

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