Reporting Al Sunshine
MIAMI (CBS4) – It’s a done deal: The $24 million dollar buy out of the popular Lime Fresh Mexican Grill by Tennessee’s “Ruby Tuesday” chain.
It’s a story of a local boy and a South Beach taco stand that made it big by offering fresh ingredients at affordable family pricing.
The “Lime Empire” started back in 2004 off Alton Road in South Beach.
Despite the success and opening several new locations nationwide, it still offers local deliveries using lime-green bicycles.
Who’s the man behind the Lime?
It’s Miami Beach’s John Kunkle. He built his “Lime-Fresh” empire one franchise at time. It’s grown to 16 stores stretching from South Beach to Washington, D.C.
“It’s amazing, I mean I started literally as a dishwasher when I was a teenager and it’s an amazing opportunity and Lime has definitely been my baby as every restaurant has been to me, every concept. To see this chain to continue, to be on the board still operating our founding store, just makes it that much sweeter for me,” said Kunkle.
As part of the deal, Limes’ founder joins Ruby Tuesday’s Board of Directors and will retain control over his original SoBe location.
Local customers aren’t surprised his formula for success is going national.
Still, Coral Gables customer Phillip Mervis is nervous.
“The food’s great, it’s always fresh, I just hope they can maintain the quality outside the Miami area,” said Mervis.
Kunkle wants to reassure his customers that nothing’s going to change
“The same people who served you a burrito last week will be serving you this week. The same produce vendors who delivered stuff locally are still delivering thru the back door. So we’re excited to continue on the same path,” said Kunkle.
Under new ownership, the Lime chain is expected to expand dramatically over the next 2 years.
Under Ruby Tuesday’s ownership, Lime Fresh is expected to open possibly as many as 50 new locations across the country over the next two years.