TEXARKANA, Texas -- Texas Roadhouse has something cooking on the grill, and it's not a sirloin.
The steakhouse, a long-established member of the local food and beverage community, is gearing up to move south and east along Interstate 30 from St. Michael Drive to a 5-acre lot at Mall Drive and Summer Ridge, just west of the old Bryce's.
And it's bringing a little brother -- Bubba's 33, which will serve brunch, pizza, wings, burgers, beer and cocktails in a separate building.
Groundbreaking on the $6 million project is planned for Sept. 25, with an opening set for spring 2024.
Managing partners Jeremy and Kerry Nienkamp said the reason for the move is simple.
"We've outgrown the property. Parking is the biggest hurdle that we have," Jeremy said Thursday to the Gazette.
As an example, he said even when the dining room of 70 tables is only 80% full, the parking lot is at capacity with a combination of cars from customers and the 50 to 60 staff members on duty.
Concerns over parking space often prompt a host of cancellations by many of the 500 to 600 guests who make reservations in a week.
"Even our to-go area is lined up on the side," Jeremy said.
The Nienkamps explored various ways to tackle the crowded parking and keep the guests coming, including expanding the parking lot.
"We couldn't extend behind because of the drop-off," Jeremy said about the back of the property, which descends steeply into the parking lot of Richmond Ranch Shopping Center.
There even was a fleeting idea of constructing a multi-story parking garage, the top of which would be level with the Roadhouse parking lot and the bottom with the shopping center lot.
"The parking garage would have interfered with water runoff," Kerry said.
In the end, the Nienkamps and Texas Roadhouse's corporate office, which is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, decided the solution lay in a new building at a new location.
The new site will increase the restaurant's footprint from about 8,500 square feet to roughly 10,000 square feet. The dining room will have 89 tables (an increase of 19) and a larger bar area is planned.
The Nienkamps also expect to increase their staff of about 190 employees by hiring 30 to 40 new team members. Hiring will start about the time of the groundbreaking in September to ensure the new hires are adequately trained before the move, Jeremy said.
"So we can work out some of the new-people kinks," he said.
The new location also will have a drive-through window and six dedicated parking spots for to-go orders.
Bubba's 33, which Jeremy expects to open first, will be Texas Roadhouse's neighbor. The eatery was created in 2013 by Kent Taylor, who opened the first Texas Roadhouse in February 1993 in Clarksville, Indiana.
It also was in 1993 when Texas Roadhouse opened in Texarkana. Cook Bakari Cooks has been with the restaurant throughout its 25 years.
The Nienkamps are Texas Roadhouse veterans, having opened and managed one in Joplin, Missouri. Two years ago, they and children Hunter, Ainsley and Keira moved to the Twin Cities to take over local operations -- and Roadhouse still remains a tie that binds.
Son Hunter is kitchen manager at a Roadhouse in Fort Worth, Texas. In Texarkana, daughter Ainsley is a bartender and sister Keira is the to-go and marketing specialist.
Roadhouse employs guerrilla marketing, Jeremy said. The approach relies less on traditional advertising and more on unconventional strategies -- such as encouraging hotel staff to distribute discount cards to guests in exchange for Dillo Dollars to redeem at the restaurant.
Texas Roadhouse also uses nontraditional holidays for promotionals. For instance, on National Tater Day on March 31, guests can get a free loaded potato.
"The national days are to say thank you (to customers)," Kerry said.
The construction project is another way Roadhouse wants to show its commitment to the city and its residents, Jeremy said.
"Texarkana has been really, really good to this company, and we want to invest in this city," he said, adding the project is not underpinned by any tax incentives from the city.
The Nienkamps credit the local restaurant's longevity and success to the consistent quality of the food.
"This menu has been the menu since 1993. We hang our hat on our sirloin," said Jeremy, singling out the 6-ounce cut.
Kerry said the key is in the preparation.
"We still make everything from scratch. Everything is fresh, and you can taste that," she said.
The couple also cite Roadhouse's adaptability in weathering economic storms, especially during the COVID lockdown.
"In 2020, we took a hit because of closing the dining room. It gave us an opportunity to perfect our to-go model," Jeremy said. "Once people got used to getting our food to go and eating in their homes, that developed a business model for to-go sales."
The growth of the to-go business is one reason a large portion of the new restaurant will be dedicated to pickup orders.
The local Texas Roadhouse's success mirrors the national trend for the chain.
Brand Finance, a global brand valuation consultancy, recently named Texas Roadhouse as No. 1 in brand growth.
"Texas Roadhouse has achieved a 56% brand value increase in 2023, to a brand value of $2.3 billion, making it the fastest-growing restaurant brand in the ranking," Brand Finance said in its March report. "This brand value increase comes primarily as a result of the brand's strong expansion strategy. The brand now operates 700 restaurants and has further raised its expansion targets for the coming years, hoping to reach 900 units."
The company reported $4 billion in revenue for 2022, according to trade publication Nation's Restaurant News.
The Nienkamps said there are no plans to expand locally. Corporate likes to keep restaurants about an hour apart, depending on population, to avoid competition, Kerry said.
The closest restaurant in Texarkana is in Bossier City, Louisiana.
For more information, visit the local Texas Roadhouse's Facebook page.