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ORLANDO-Dallas entrepreneur Antonio Swad could be the next Kentucky Colonel of the burgeoning fast-casual food industry. Swad has signed three new franchise development contracts in Orlando, Gainesville and Tallahassee in a move he hopes will help develop his three-year old, 32-unit Wingstop Restaurants Inc. into a national chain.

He says he has signed contracts to open another 60 restaurants in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Swad’s restaurants sell nothing but chicken wings in eight flavors. He sees his restaurant concept as a hybrid, “filling a need between full-service and fast-food restaurants,” he tells GlobeSt.com.

But his entry into the Florida marketplace faces established fast-casual competition. Still, Swad is counting on finding experienced restaurant operators to franchise locations and outsell his rivals. His strategy to do that is finding compact 1,200-sf to 1,500-sf sites, generally in strip shopping centers anchored by a 24-hour grocery store.

The estimated hard construction cost of each restaurant is $110,000 or $73 per sf. The total project investment for each unit runs about $229,000.

In Tallahassee, the state’s capital, he has signed Deborah Coaker and her husband, Gary to five-year leases with a five-year option to open a 1,500-sf Wingstop unit in the Lafayette Place Shopping Center at 3111 Mahan Dr., 250 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando. The opening is scheduled for October.

Deborah Coaker, with 20 years of restaurant business behind her, is the former operations director for Taco Bell restaurants in the Tallahassee and Daytona Beach, FL areas.

In Gainesville, 90 miles northwest of Orlando, investor Bill Kirby is negotiating franchise terms with Swad and could be open for business by Thanksgiving if he can find a suitable site.

In Orlando, Swad has closed a deal with a restaurateur who declines to be identified now because he is holding down a job at another restaurant while scouting for an ideal Wingstop site. He would like to be open by year end.

Daily delivery of menu items are key to a successful fresh food operation, a logistics challenge Swad overcomes by contracting with Alliant Food Services of Telluride, CO, a national distributor. For fresh chicken daily, Swad helps franchisees find local poultry sources that can deliver on time and in volume.

“With our concept, we meet adult tastes by providing food much higher in quality than is found in most fast-food operations,” Swad says, realizing every fast-food company in the country will be challenging that statement.

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