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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, May 19, 202005:20 AM EST

Florida Cracker Kitchen planning on slow, soft opening in San Marco

It will begin serving customers for takeout, delivery and dining-in May 19.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

Florida Cracker Kitchen’s second Jacksonville location scheduled its soft opening May 19, but management doesn’t want to pack the San Marco restaurant.

It will open for to-go, delivery and dine-in service at 25% capacity, said Travis Norman, executive vice president of Hampton Golf.

Hampton Golf owns Heartfelt Hospitality Group LLC, the restaurant’s operator.

ServStar Management Group,  which previously operated the restaurant, also is listed as a manager of Heartfelt Hospitality Group.

Norman said Heartfelt Hospitality was formed to specifically manage Florida Cracker locations. 

Although Gov. Ron DeSantis permits restaurants to operate at 50% capacity as of May 18, Norman said with a new restaurant, it is best to take it slow. 

“When we know we can safely move our customers through, we will expand on occupancy but we’re not going to do it until we’re ready,” he said. “I appreciate what the governor is doing and I’m grateful for that, but we’re going to take it at our pace.”

Travis Norman stands under the Wimpee Fuel Oil sign, which was on the original building in 1937. The sign hangs in the restaurant’s main dining room.

The San Marco location employs 30 to 40 people and at full capacity, can seat up to 100 people. 

It is open for breakfast, brunch and lunch Tuesday through Sunday, operating limited hours from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

There are four locations in Brooksville, Keystone Heights, Homosassa and in Jacksonville at Beach Boulevard and San Pablo Road.

 Another restaurant is planned in Palatka along the St. Johns River. 

The 6,000-square-foot facility has a dining room, bar, game room, merchandise shop and outdoor areas in the front and back of the restaurant. There is an old truck out front that eventually will be used for the restaurant’s bloody mary bar on Sundays.

For now, the game room and bloody mary bar will not open.

The restaurant's game room will be closed for now.

“When we first started this, we didn’t think we were going to have a closed game room,” Norman said. “We allocated 1,200 square feet to it.”

The restaurant is in a former Wimpee Fuel Oil building, which was constructed in 1937. For the restaurant’s rustic, open feel, Norman said the building worked well. 

It still required removing a car lift out from the building, and adding a 1,750-square-foot kitchen.

A Wimpee Fuel Oil sign, which was on the original building in 1937, hangs in the restaurant’s main dining room. A photo of the building is on the wall in the merchandise store. 

“Out here on the floor, with the old Florida theme and our Southern hospitality, these old buildings play into that,” he said. “We’re not trying to make it a new, shiny, high-end restaurant.”

The San Marco location employs 30 to 40 people and at full capacity, can seat up to 100 people.

Staff will be required to wear masks, the restaurant will serve a special menu, of about a third of what is normally offered, and menus will be single-use. 

Norman said he is not marketing the opening, other than placing signs out front of the restaurant at 1842 Kings Ave. 

Eventually, he plans on having a more normal restaurant opening.

“We’ll get into communication with the community, inviting them out,” he said. “(For now), just take it easy, take it safe and take care of our guests the way we know how.”

The city's second Florida Cracker Kitchen opens May 19 at 1842 Kings Ave.
A 1,750-square-foot kitchen was added to the original building.


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