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Metro Diner's San Marco location is at 3302 Hendricks Ave. There are three others in the area.
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jun. 17, 201412:00 PM EST

Metro Diner gets new financial partners to help chain grow

by: David Chapman

The Davoli family, purveyors of the Metro Diner local chain of breakfast and lunch restaurants, has entered into partnership with a Tampa-based investment group with the idea of future growth.

Don’t worry, though — the chicken and waffles and Yo Hala on the Square specialties aren’t going anywhere.

Neither are the Davolis, who will still run the day-to-day operations of the local establishments, said Mark Davoli, who owns and operates the restaurants with his father, John, and brother, John Jr.

Mark Davoli declined to discuss specific financials behind the partnership agreed to last month, but called it a 50-50 joint venture with ConSul Hospitality Group comprising industry veterans with lengthy resumes.

The group consists of CEO Carl Sahlsten and partners Hugh Connerty Jr. and Chris Sullivan. Each has his own industry background: Sahlsten is a former president of Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Sullivan co-founded Outback Steakhouse and Connerty is a former partner and CEO of Outback’s international brand.

It’s a group Davoli said he and his family had discussed working with in the past and when the opportunity presented itself, they accepted.

“They feel like Metro Diner can go in neighborhoods across the country,” Mark Davoli said Monday.

But first, it’s staying local.

Sahlsten said it was soon after the two sides sat down that there was a realization both businesses ran in a similar way.

“I think we have got a lot of experience and a solid track record … helping small brands grow and reach their potential,” Sahlsten said Monday. “Only time will tell for potential.”

He said the group will work with the Davolis to learn the system and grow the brand while “helping out wherever we can.”

The family will continue operating the four local stores — the original in San Marco and others in Mandarin, Jacksonville Beach and Ortega — with the group providing experience and capital for future stores.

The next two locations, Davoli said, will be in Northeast Florida. A restaurant could open by the end of the year in a shopping center anchored by Panera Bread near Baymeadows Road and Southside Boulevard. The other could be in St. Augustine, in a shopping center north of Florida 312. He wasn’t ready to provide the specific location.

Other markets like Orlando, Tampa, Ormond Beach and Tallahassee might be on the horizon — which is where the multi-unit successes of the group really could help, Davoli said. The group could have people in place at the local stores to learn, which would help keep the Metro Diner style intact regardless of location.

What will be different to customers?

“The answer is nothing,” Davoli said. “That’s the beauty of these guys … they understand the concept. They love what and how we do things.”

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