A Full Deck - Your Observer.com
Date: August 13, 2014 - by: Robin Hartill | News Editor
In late 2010, Daiquiri Deck owners Troy Syprett, Russell Matthes and Matt Grover made a vow of solidarity: They wouldn't shave their beards until their new restaurant opened on St. Armands Circle.
They didn't expect their pact would require them to go without shaving for five-and-a-half months as construction issues delayed the opening. But, in March 2011, they made the cut when the restaurant finally opened.
Three-and-a-half years later, the trio hopes that several additional openings are on the horizon. Will they ditch their razors once again in anticipation of the milestones? Not a chance.
"That was a one-time thing," said Matthes, Daiquiri Deck's vice president of marketing.
Syprett, Matthes and Grover plan to expand the second-story St. Armands location to include the ground-floor space previously occupied by Sarasota Yogurt Co. They hope the project will be completed by Thanksgiving. They are in discussions to open at a new, undisclosed Sarasota County location by the end of the year. In the long term, they hope to continue to add new locations, growing to as many as 10 restaurants from Clearwater to Naples.
Having a first-floor presence on St. Armands was one of their goals from the time they opened there.
"We wanted the first floor from the start, but it hasn't been available," said Grover, vice president of operations. "When it became available, we jumped on the opportunity."
Renovations will add 1,500 square feet and approximately 75 seats to the restaurant's existing nearly 3,000 square feet and 200 seats. The company will hire 30 to 40 new employees to add to its current staff of 340.
"The basic plan is to bring the atmosphere from upstairs to the first floor," Grover said.
They will add a folding NanaWall, a folding glass wall that will allow them to open up the restaurant on sunny days and move the elevator and stairs to the back of the restaurant.
They believe it's important for Circle merchants to keep their storefronts updated due to the increased competition they'll face from the new Mall at University Town Center.
Grover said the restaurant will have to close for an unknown amount of time (possibly as little as a couple of weeks) during construction. That will depend on engineers' assessments of the building.
When it comes to expanding, they believe they've found the formula for success at their existing three locations: the original Siesta Key restaurant and a Venice location that opened in early 2013.
"What we've discovered is, we need close proximity to the beach or the water," Grover said. "We need walkable traffic. And we need to do well in tourist-driven areas."
The original concept for Daiquiri Deck came to Syprett, founder and president, and a Sarasota native and University of Florida graduate, while he was drinking at Fat Tuesday, a bar chain known for its frozen drinks, during a trip to Key West. He thought about how he would like a similar venue in Sarasota that also served food.
In 1993, he opened the original Siesta Key location; less than six months later, Syprett told his childhood friend Matthes, a fellow UF grad who moved to Sarasota as a young child, that the business was on fire. Matthes left his job at the Steak & Ale chain and joined Syprett.
"When we first opened, I felt like I was riding a tiger, and if I fell off, it would eat me," Syprett said.
Grover, a Maine native who graduated from the University of Maine, knew Syprett from a summer he had spent in the Sarasota area, working at the Peanut Gallery on Siesta Key. He became a vested owner in the business in 1999.
When the first Daiquiri Deck opened, more than 70% of sales were alcohol. Today, sales are approximately 60% food and 40% alcohol — which is key to the restaurant's longevity.
"Bars are trendy and come and go," Matthes said. "Restaurants have staying power."
"When you're a restaurant, your potential client base is so much larger," said Syprett, who counts spring breakers, families with young children and European tourists among regular patrons at Daiquiri Deck.
Today, Spyrett says the biggest challenges in the business are maintaining consistency and hiring quality employees in an area that includes a large retirement-age population.
Daiquiri Deck funds its expansion efforts through a combination of bank financing and internal funding. It currently wants to keep future locations company-owned and doesn't plan to pursue franchising.
Currently, Spyrett, Matthes and Grover plan to grow the business at a rate of up to two new locations per year, depending on cash flow and finding the right locations.
"I'd just say, 2015 could be a very big year for us, if all goes well," Grover said.
1993 — Daiquiri Deck open its first location in Siesta Key Village.
1995 — Daiquiri Deck opens a second location on Madeira Beach in Pinellas County.
1996 — Daiquiri Deck owners open the Peanut Gallery, a small bar in Siesta Key Village, which is now the raw bar for the Siesta location.
2004 — The owners sell the Madeira Beach location.
2011 — St. Armands Circle location opens.
2013 — Venice location opens.
2014 — The owners plan to expand the St. Armands location to the first floor and possibly add a fourth location by the end of the year.