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Full Belly looks to expand

Successful Lakewood Ranch burger business will offer franchises.

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Matt Holt received a rude introduction to the restaurant business when he went into a partnership in West Palm Beach that crashed and burned in a year.

"I learned how not to do things," Holt said.

How things have changed.

After three successful years of owning Full Belly Stuffed Burgers, 8742 E. State Road 70, Bradenton, with his brother, Shane, and mom, Pinki, the family team has decided to offer franchises.

"It's exciting even though things are up in the air," Matt Holt said. "We felt like it's the right time to move forward and to expand."

He said he learned to be successful, a restaurant needed to carve out its own niche with a good, quality product in its market. Full Belly Stuffed Burgers has done that with offerings such as the "Matty Matt," which has maple-flavored bacon stuffed into the center of the meat along with peanut butter.

"It was kind of a joke," Matt Holt said. "I always said that peanut butter makes everything taste better."

The "Matty Matt" has been very popular, although the Cheddar Bacon Burger remains the restaurant's best seller where the bacon is mixed right into the meet and the center oozes cheddar cheese.

Matt Holt credits his brother, Shane, for having the idea for the restaurant and for being "gifted in the kitchen."

He said that anyone who purchases a franchise will be given at least a four-mile radius of exclusivity. "I feel confident there could be four to five in the Sarasota-Bradenton area without stepping on anyone's toes," he said. "Parrish also seems like a great opportunity."

Being a family-run business, the Holts want to make sure the quality they have developed in their Lakewood Ranch restaurant continues when someone takes out a franchise.

"Initially, we are going to need to find the right fit of people," he said. "We have to maintain that consistency. This will force us to put our trust in folks, but they will be owners of their own business. It's long hours and stressful."

Although Matt Holt said his family is thinking of the expansion in a boutique type of franchise format, the sky is the limit. 

"We just can't foresee how much growth we might have," he said.

The family business originally offered the burgers at the Sarasota Farmers Market five years ago either on-site or for take-home. Eventually, they opened the restaurant. The restaurant has earned a spot in Trip Advisor's Top 100 list of restaurants in the Tampa Bay area.


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