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Lee Roy Selmon’s survival plan

Eatery changes with times

March 10, 2009

At a time when many businesses are bowing to economic pressures and closing their doors, it seems only those that are able to adapt will remain solvent and emerge from the current recession in tact.

Establishments that rely heavily upon consumers' disposable income have felt the brunt of the economic free fall, including a number of national chain restaurants that have closed their doors in Southwest Florida or nation-wide.

2008 saw the closure of the local Bennigan's, Macaroni Grill, Steak and Ale and others fell by the wayside as consumers, by necessity, began to cut back on discretionary spending.

Others have also struggled and been forced to make tough decisions about continuing business. While some may be choosing to cut back on staff, reduce hours of service or hold off on planned expansions, the leadership team at the helm of popular Fort Myers restaurant Lee Roy Selmon's announced its plan for economic survival, expand the menu and lower prices.

Selmon is a former Academic All-American at the University of Oklahoma and member of the college Football Hall of Fame. The looming but soft-spoken defensive end was the fledgling Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-ever draft pick in 1976 and the first Buc to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Hame in 1995.

After an injury sidelined his NFL career, Selmon quickly adapted to a non-football way of life and went on to a successful career in business and in 1993 joined the University of South Florida as associate athletic director.

On Thursday, Selmon announced that the chain of restaurant that bares his name was also changing with the times.

"We know that people need help during these difficult times and we want to do our part," he said.

Chris Sullivan, former CEO of OSI Restaurant Partners, the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, Carraba's Italian Grill, Flemings and others, and now one of Selmon's business partners, said the restaurant has made across-the-board reductions in menu prices without decreasing portion size or increased the portion size without an up tick in prices.

Additional changes include gluten-free options, a move toward a more sports bar-like atmosphere and seasonal menu changes.

Sullivan said the move was designed to make the restaurant more accessible to struggling families and more appealing to a broader range of customers still watching every dollar spent.

The restaurants will be hosting a series of special events to coincide with the the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and a wrapping up with two local people from every restaurant in the chain having a private dinner with a well-known, but yet to be named, sportscaster.



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