LongHorn Steakhouse eyes Wichita for sites

longhornWICHITA — It looks like the 29th and Maize area is continuing to attract restaurants.

Tuesday, Panda Express confirmed it’s putting an almost 3,000-square-foot restaurant to the north of the Lowe’s driveway near where several other restaurants opened this year.

Now, it looks like LongHorn Steakhouse is eyeing the area.

There are 334 LongHorn Steakhouses in 31 states — 32 with the addition of Iowa next month.

The chain, which plans to open about 25 new restaurants this year, is “kind of progressing west,” says spokesman Rich Jeffers.

There are several LongHorn Steakhouses on the eastern side of the state, including one that’s coming to Manhattan.

Jeffers won’t say if Wichita is slated to get the restaurant. He says the company typically only confirms a restaurant is opening after construction starts.

Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, which also owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden among other brands, acquired LongHorn Steakhouse in 2007.

“It is a steakhouse that is kind of designed in a very upscale, casual design motif, if you will,” Jeffers says.

When the first LongHorn Steakhouse opened in 1981, it was more of a peanuts-on-the-floor kind of place.

“It’s evolved,” Jeffers says. Today, it’s “a little bit more sophisticated dining room.”

Since the LongHorn Steakhouse in Manhattan is already announced but still won’t open until early 2011, don’t look for one in Wichita in the immediate future.

We’ll keep you posted if and when a deal happens.

Panda Express to open on Maize Road in front of Lowe’s

WICHITA — California-based Panda Express has chosen a second Wichita site.

The first Panda will open in early December at One Kellogg Place on East Kellogg where Walmart is.

The second will be on Maize Road in front of Lowe’s.

“It’s the logical place for us to go,” says Susan Flesher, Panda’s real estate manager.

She likes the new retail stores, especially big ones like Lowe’s, opening in the area.

The restaurant will locate on the second pad site north of the Lowe’s entrance.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Long John Silver’s Freshside Grille and Cinnamon’s Deli are on the pad sites to the south.

The west-side Panda will be 2,700 square feet, which is a bit bigger than the east side’s 2,448 square feet.

Flesher says the extra space is for some expanded offerings, though it’s not yet clear what those offerings will be.

Leisa Lowry of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the deal for the space and is representing Panda in the market.

Look for the west-side Panda to open this spring.

Panda Express to open at One Kellogg Place

WICHITA — Panda Express has chosen One Kellogg Place on East Kellogg where Wal-Mart is for its first Wichita site.

Last year, Have You Heard? reported the California-based chain of more than 1,300 restaurants wanted to come to the Wichita area.

The first Panda will be in a freestanding 2,449-square-foot building with a drive-through between Pizza Hut and IHOP.

It will be ready in the fall.

“We just like the energy that surrounds that area,” says Susan Flesher, Panda’s real estate manager.

She specifically points to the nearby traffic and daytime population.

“We just felt like that was a good first site.”

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Panda Express to open several Wichita sites, including a possible two this year

WICHITA — Panda Express now confirms what Have You Heard? first reported was a possibility in September.

The national chain is making its first foray into the Wichita market with four to six restaurants in the next two to three years.

“We’d love to open our first one this year — two if we can,” says Susan Flesher, the chain’s senior regional real estate manager.

The company, based in Rosemead, Calif., has 1,300 sites serving Chinese food in a fast-casual style nationally.

Flesher compares Panda Express’ format to Chipotle, where diners first select a starch — steamed or fried rice or chow mein — and vegetables followed by two to three entrees.

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