Now 22 years ago, Matt and Tara Strickland opened the very first Zaxby’s in the state of Florida. The couple had decided to get into the restaurant business, but for Zaxby’s, it wasn’t a matter of just signing some papers. Matt and his then business partner applied for a Zaxby’s franchise, were approved for two, then had to attend “Chicken School.” “It’s a management program” says Matt, “but we weren’t worried about the management part. Our belief system is that management is just how you treat people. If you show people respect and dignity, you can manage any situation properly. What we really needed to know were the recipes.”
The Stricklands have a total of five Zaxby’s (four in Florida and one in Georgia) and one Mellow Mushroom (here in St. Augustine), and this fifth Zaxby’s location is a recent addition to the St. Augustine restaurant scene. The choice to go with Zaxby’s was simple for Matt and Tara. Their reason? “The food. Zaxby’s had the chicken and sauce that people loved,” says Matt. “We got in on the ground floor with this franchise and they treat us very well.”
A fan favorite for chicken fingers, wings and salads, construction on the new Zaxby’s location began in May. With indoor seating for 72, the 3,300 square-foot modified farmhouse-style restaurant is built for speed of service. The layout supports Zaxby’s commitment to providing an exceptional fast-casual dining experience including a redesigned kitchen and dining area with two proprietary Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. The restaurant features rustic décor for a welcoming ambience. An alternative to fast food, Zaxby’s serves fresh, prepared-at-order, hand-breaded Chicken Fingerz and Wings made in a variety of nine sauces. The menu also features four Zalads and eight sandwiches along with innovative Zappetizers including Tater Chips and Spicy Fried Mushrooms, and Party Platterz for large groups.
St. Johns County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, so adding another location was an easy decision. The demand for chicken was certainly present. “St. Johns County is a busy place and can be quite congested,” says Matt. “We want folks to have as much access to the chicken as possible. Our new Zaxby’s is about six miles away from our current location, giving people the opportunity to get to us from wherever they are.”
When it comes down to it, the team that Matt and Tara have built at all five of their Zaxby’s locations is really the driving force behind their success. “We are most proud of our people. We love them. They’re our family,” says Matt. “We have 34 managers and some that started out with us at 15 years old and have now come back. We’re very blessed to have the people that we have. We treat them well. It’s real simple to be nice, and we treat them with respect. We’ve worked in the restaurants for years and it takes hard work. We’re excited to add about 50 new jobs to St. Augustine’s community.”
The new Zaxby’s is located at 120 Harvest Lane near Interstate 95. Visit them online at www.zaxbys.com/locations/fl/saint-augustine/120-harvest-ln.
Interested in reading more of Matt and Tara’s story? Find our article on them here!