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LARGO, FL-Locally based Ker’s WingHouse Bar & Grill plans to expand from its current 19-store chain by launching a national franchise program that aims to add six locations by the end of this year and 48 by 2011. The chain’s current locations are in Florida and Texas, where founder Crawford Ker played for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980s.

“Our goal is to leverage the company’s successful formula by launching an expansion plan that will enable us to continue our growth through franchising,” says Ker, who established his casual-dining chain in Largo in 1994 after retiring from the National Football League. The new growth strategy will focus initially on Southeastern states, with a long-term goal of expanding at least 250 units nationwide, he says.

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

The chain, which prevailed against Atlanta-based Hooters of America Inc. in a 2003 trademark infringement lawsuit, looks to target a variety of experienced, multi-unit operators and investors with $1.5 million net worth and $600,000 liquidity. It also seeks to open in existing restaurant locations in good condition with high traffic counts, says Tom Dunn, vice president of franchising for Ker’s WingHouse.

“From a real estate perspective, we’re finally starting to see some deals,” Dunn tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s a good opportunity for us to come and start looking at available locations. The timing is right for us after 14 years.”

New locations for Ker’s WingHouse will be a combination of new construction, freestanding stores and end-cap retail sites, Dunn says. He adds that the chain has attempted to develop along corridors within its home state, along Interstate 4 between Tampa and Daytona Beach as well as from Fort Myers to Naples, West Palm Beach to Miami, and Jacksonville throughout the Florida Panhandle.

The chain’s current locations, which are evenly owned and rented, range in size from 5,200 sf up to 10,000 sf with lease terms averaging five years, according to Dunn. “We want to be long-term tenants,” he says.

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