September 28, 2023
Rick Mauch, LinkedIn
From BBQ to sushi, how this Fort Worth suburb became a thriving restaurant destination
(Keller, Texas) — There is no shortage of great places to dine in the Fort Worth area, and one of the places leading the way is Keller. Appetites from virtually all walks of life can be whetted as the city’s growing restaurant scene caters to a plethora of flavor preferences. In the past year, a dozen restaurants have sprung up in the city. Of those, nine have opened their doors in 2023 alone, already matching last year’s total restaurant growth with plenty of time to spare.
In the past year, a dozen restaurants have sprung up in the city. Of those, nine have opened their doors in 2023 alone, already matching last year’s total restaurant growth with plenty of time to spare.
“Our staff is focused primarily on recruiting local entrepreneurs and smaller regional chains into our community to help set Keller’s restaurant scene apart from our neighbors’ offerings,” said Mary Culver, Keller’s economic development director. “Our residents love to support local businesses and they are looking for places they don’t see in every other Dallas/Fort Worth suburb, so this is the perfect place for new business owners to thrive and for established restaurateurs to establish a foothold in Tarrant County or Texas as they expand.”
Since 2019 the city has seen 36 new restaurants come to town. Of these, 22 are locally owned and 14 are part of a chain. This year’s growth has seen six local restaurants opposite three chains.
“Larger chains are typically looking at demographics, traffic counts, and what land or leases are available that meet their criteria. Our affluent resident base makes Keller an attractive prospect for business owners,” Culver said.
The city’s median household income of $149,822 is almost twice that of Tarrant County’s $73,545.
Restaurant approach pays off
Culver said the city has had the same focus on restaurant recruitment for several years, and is seeing the fruits of that labor increase. The city conducts citizen surveys on restaurant and retail recruitment to better understand what each resident desires. They also contract with The Retail Coach, a marketing research firm out of Mississippi, to help identify expanding businesses.
“The economic growth we have seen in Keller is a result of hard work and a strategic plan to recruit and retain experiential businesses that fit within our family-friendly vision,” Mayor Armin Mizani said. “Infrastructure improvements and beautification efforts throughout our city have also been purposeful and have aided in recruiting new businesses and, ultimately, redevelopment of our commercial corridors.”
New Asian restaurants have been of particular interest to residents lately, Culver said. The recent sushi openings have been very popular. Hush Sushi recently won the Star-Telegram’s Readers’ Choice for best sushi in Fort Worth area.
“Residents are mostly clamoring for unique, family-friendly restaurants, and most of what has come in over the past five years fits that bill,” she said.
And, yes, they do sometimes specifically target businesses, Culver added.
“We also updated our incentive policy in January 2022, setting unique, experiential restaurants as a high priority for recruitment,” she said.
Bob Stephenson, chef/owner of FnG Eats Bar and Grill, which is in its 11th year in Keller Town Center, is also on the city’s economic development board. He said the board and the city have taken a stance on trying to look for unique experiences for Keller residents.
“Although the general population in Keller always asks for the chain restaurants/retail names to be located within our city limits, the proximity to those name chain concepts in surrounding cities keeps them from building in Keller,” Stephenson explained. “The city itself is also in kind of a secluded island type situation with no direct freeway access to attract those concepts, so you have to pivot to your strengths.
“We have a great community feel with a bit of old school background that lends to that unique experience.”
Quality of life issue
Culver said that, apart from expanding the city’s tax base, the focus on restaurants is really a quality-of-life issue.
“Our residents want great places to eat and they want variety, from genres to price points to the look and feel of the place,” she said. “We want to accommodate our young families interested in picking up something tasty to-go on a busy school night as well as our residents having a fun night out with friends, couples celebrating special occasions, and everything in between.
“That variety and quality helps our own citizens ‘Keep it in Keller,’ and it attracts residents from throughout the region.”
In all, Keller has 119 restaurants operating in the city of all varieties, from upscale dine-in to fast food take out. Those who have been there for a long time have a welcoming attitude toward the newcomers, Culver said.
“For the most part, our restaurateurs recognize that a rising tide lifts all boats,” she said. “Our chef-owned restaurants are particularly supportive of new concepts coming in.”
Don’t expect the growth to stop anytime soon. Culver said there are more restaurants coming in soon, including Te’jun, which recently had a site plan approved for a third location in the community. Others under construction and moving into existing buildings soon include Acquario, Huckleberry’s, Pattea Lou’s Tea Shop, Desi Adda, Black Rock Coffee and Coco Shrimp.
Also, three new restaurants are set to break ground in Center Stage next year, Osteria Toscana, Base Camp and Los Caminos.
“We also have a few other restaurants seeking locations in Keller that we are not at liberty to disclose, but we are excited to see those deals close,” Culver said.
New restaurants opening in Keller in past year
- Hush Keller (sushi), 211 S. Main St., Sept. 7, 2022.
- To Chai For (Chai tea cafe), 841 North Tarrant Parkway, Suite 100, Oct. 20, 2022.
- Paleteria La Tapatia (Mexican frozen treats), 220 N. Main St., Suite B, Feb. 16, 2023.
- Ashims Eastern Euro Buffet (Mediterranean), 721 Keller Parkway, Suite 116, March 9, 2023.
- Taqueria Mi Viejo (Mexican), 801 S. Main St., Suite 101, April 25, 2023.
- Hoshi Ramen (Japanese), 1301 Keller Parkway, Suite 200, May 9, 2023.
- Outpost 36 (barbecue), 1801 S. Main St., July 1, 2023.
- Little Lilly Sushi, 1004 Keller Parkway, 106, Aug. 8, 2023.
- Buffalo Wild Wings GO, 1411 Keller Parkway, Suite 300, Nov. 30, 2022.
- Nautical Bowls (super foods), 1301 Keller Parkway, Suite 400, March 3, 2023.
- Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, 2133 Rufe Snow Dr., Suite 102, May 23, 2013.
- Sugar Llamas (dessert bar), 242 Rufe Snow Dr., Suite 120, Aug. 10, 2023. (Oklahoma-based chain’s first North Texas location.)
Originally story at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: https://www.star-telegram.com/entertainment/living/food-drink/article279837154.html
About The Retail Coach
The Retail Coach, founded in 2000, is a national retail consulting, market research and development firm that combines strategy, technology, and creative expertise to develop and deliver high-impact retail recruitment and development strategies to local governments, chambers of commerce, and economic development organizations. The Retail Coach offers a fully customized system of products and services that better enable communities to maximize their retail development potential. Their experience in leading municipalities in over 650 communities in 40+ states will create better, stronger places to live and work.
For more information on The Retail Coach, visit https://www.theretailcoach.net