LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — More and more restaurants are popping up across the bluegrass despite the pandemic, signaling a rebound may be underway.
Spotz Gelato started in 2013 with one food truck. Now they have several food trucks and a host of locations.
Owner Beth Richardson says the pandemic didn't stand in their way.
"Throughout the pandemic, we did not close when a lot of restaurants closed at the beginning. We already had an app and we were already working with delivery services. So we were able to just keep that going," said Richardson.
Spotz opened a new shop in Shelbyville as COVID-19 raged across the Bluegrass. Their customers supported them.
"They bought gift certificates, they came in more often, they would do carryout orders and it's really what kept us going," said Richardson.
Richardson says because of their support, they were able to open another Spotz in Midway this past April.
"Our sales are close to what they were pre-pandemic and people are coming in, they're staying," said Richardson.
Stacy Roof with the Kentucky Restaurant Association says while plenty of restaurants did not survive the turmoil of 2020, there are many still opening and expanding.
"I definitely think restaurants are on the rebound," said Stacy.
She didn't have an exact number but says the demand from consumers is there.
"There's a demand. Therefore, they want to figure out how to accommodate their guests. That's what hospitality is, so I'm not surprised to see places opening. I know Kentucky is a healthy market. I think we'll continue to see places doing that," said Roof.
Buzzed Bull Creamery will open at the Summit near Blue Sushi this summer. The owners are from Eastern Kentucky and have lived in Lexington for 20 years.
"Buzzbull Creamery is about way more than having a great boozy dessert. It is also about the experience you get from watching your ice cream being made from a liquid base to a solid using our liquid nitrogen technique. It creates a billowy smoke and fun atmosphere for everyone," said Owner Noah Kendrick.
There are only about 5 Buzzed Bull shops across the U.S.
Porterhouse BBQ, which was formerly a food truck, is now opening a having a restaurant opening near the greyline station.
"I've had my BBQ food truck running for last 5 years. I've been cooking BBQ for over 20 years and I am self-taught. I started out just cooking for friends and family. Then I started doing whole hogs and more for my wife's family get together and that lead me into competition BBQ for a few years," said owner Tadd Porter. "I then started running my food truck for 5 years and now I'm moving into my brick-and-mortar restaurant at the greyline Station. I try to keep my BBQ simple and cook everything fresh every day and can't wait to get the restaurant open. I will have a couple tables inside my restaurant and a back patio with a few more tables outside."
Then there's going to be a mostly crowd-funded creole restaurant coming to downtown Lexington by August.
"The community really showed out for us. We were able to raise $30,000 in 21 days, which was very humbling and exciting. So, I do feel like we have the community support, especially downtown and we're ready for make our dream a reality," said Kelly Mackey, one of the owners and Executive Chef of Lady Remoulade.
Mackey understands that it is still a risk opening up a brand-new restaurant not knowing what the future holds, but feels Lexington is ready and her team has the experience needed.
"What kind of puts me at ease is just the, you know because we are really a chef's collective that owns the concept and the business. We have, you know, I think cumulative between all three of us you know we have almost 50 years of experience between the three of us in the industry itself, so we know it's a good concept," said Mackey. "You know people love Cajun Creole and French food. So even though, to some people it might not seem like the best time to do it. We're ready to get back in the game and I think people are ready to come out as it starts to get safer."
Lady Remoulade is set to open by August in downtown Lexington. They are planning kitchen takeovers at several restaurants in the meantime starting at the end of May.