Jeff King of St. Augustine, Florida, works at the first car dealership in the nation to expand and include a popular restaurant franchise that’s now serving 6,000 diners a week just six months after opening.
“We have an F-150 beer list available,” he said. “That’s 150 beers, 40 on tap.”
Patrons walk to dinner through the Bozard Ford Lincoln dealership or enter from a separate entrance for a juicy Black Angus burger, chicken wings, gluten-free salmon salad, homemade meatloaf or shrimp and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese.
While Ford’s Garage is an established hot spot near Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, that’s not where it all began. Four entrepreneurs came together to set up the first Ford Garage in 2012 in Fort Myers, Florida, with no affiliation with the automaker.
Yet the interior and exterior of the restaurant spotlights classic Ford cars and car parts.
It’s like a Hard Rock Cafe for automotive junkies.
When Ford lawyers came knocking on the door of Ford’s Garage in 2014, the restaurant group embraced the opportunity to build the brand together and signed a licensing agreement in 2016.
Now, the restaurants have expanded to a total of 15 locations, including 13 in Florida and one in Noblesville, Indiana, just outside Indianapolis, with one under construction in Cincinnati and three more in Florida, the company said.
The Dearborn location opened in 2017. And that’s where King, vice president and general manager at Bozard Ford Lincoln, fell in love with the idea.
He decided that his initial idea to open a steakhouse to attract Lincoln customers should be revised. The cool place that offered family friendly comfort food with a full bar should be more relaxing and casual.
Ford’s Garage St. Augustine opened on Sept. 24, during the coronavirus pandemic with seating inside and out, plus carryout service. Business has thrived.
Bozard is likely the first of many dealers to expand into the restaurant business.
“We’re getting significant interest from dealers around the country,” said Marc Brown, 51, of Tampa, Florida, chairman of the board and a founding member of Ford’s Garage.