April Rexroad, manager of the new Bojangles on East Colonial Drive. Photo by Jim Carchidi

April Rexroad, manager of the new Bojangles on East Colonial Drive. Photo by Jim Carchidi

Anjali Fluker writes in the Orlando Business Journal that Orlando food buffs craving biscuits, pizza or wings have plenty to look forward to in the coming months.

At least three local franchisees of national fast-food chain restaurants — Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits, CiCi’s Pizza and Buffalo Wild Wings — are planning new Central ­Florida locations.

The new master franchisee for Bojangles, 7 Bo of Central Florida LLC, will open its first Central Florida eatery in Orlando on April 18 and has two more in the works, an estimated $8 million total investment. This marks the Charlotte, N.C.-based chain’s return to Orlando after a 15-year absence.

Gregg Hill, a principal of 7 Bo of Central Florida, plans to open two new stores per year for the next four years in Orange, Seminole and ­Volusia counties.

Hill and operating partner Mike Brandon will open a second one in October in Altamonte Springs at a site that formerly housed a Steak & Ale restaurant and they’ll open a third Bojangles in Oviedo, possibly by February.

Bojangles restaurants typically are 3,000-4,000 square feet and construction costs start at $650,000-$750,000.

One factor driving some of the fast-food chain growth has been the financial woes of many full-service restaurant chains. For instance, the Plano, Texas-based parent company of Bennigan’s Grill & Tavern and Steak & Ale filed for Chapter 7 liquidation in July, closing 300 corporate-owned locations nationwide, including 20 in Florida.

Metro Orlando had an 8.4 percent retail vacancy rate last year that’s expected to reach 10 percent by the end of this year, said Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, so landlords are OK with a fiscally strong fast-food eatery taking a former full-service restaurant location.

“It goes back to basics on these guys,” said Dale Takio, principal of Orlando-based restaurant consulting firm Taktik Inc. “They have cash and can handle the 12-18 months it takes to open, regardless of the economy.”

Market conditions have prompted other chains to expand in Central Florida, too. Take Orlando-based Pizza Unlimited International Inc., which owns six local CiCi’s Pizza locations. It will open five more statewide this year. Building costs average $550,000 per site.

Meanwhile, Buffalo Wild Wings’ Orlando-based franchisee, Sunshine Restaurant Corp., in February opened its fifth location in a former 7,700-square-foot Don Pablo’s restaurant ­in Casselberry.

That site cost $1.7 million to develop, while most ground-up operations cost up to $2.5 million, said Sunshine Chairman Norman Gross. Sunshine Restaurant plans to sign three more leases this year, but Gross declined to share details.

Orlando Business Journal