The founder of the Pizza Patrón and Wingstop chains Antonio Swad has launched a new “polished comfort food” casual-dining concept in Mesquite, Texas, that is his biggest yet.
Swad, who founded Pizza Patrón in 1986 and sold the franchise system and his 11 company locations in 2017 to his largest franchisee, last week debuted his new concept Porch Swing, a 10,000-square-foot full-service restaurant featuring classic Southern dishes and a full bar, along with live music on weekends.
Embedded within Porch Swing is a sub-brand called The Pie Company, with freshly baked whole pies, as well as pie by the slice served on the main restaurant menu. The shop will have a dedicated entrance, but restaurant guests can also order pies to go from their table.
The entertainment aspect, Porch Swing Live, is another sub-brand with merchandise and a separate logo, Swad said.
“Everything is pretty well thought out. Even the soundtrack is curated,” he said. “There’s a 32,000-watt sound system, both indoor and outdoor, and it’s set up so the musicians can just come in and plug in and play, they don’t have to lug in any speakers or amplifiers.”
The menu, designed around eight core entrées ranging in price from $12.50 for chicken tenders to $22 for a full rack of ribs, was created by Andy Revella, who worked previously with Rainforest Café and Harrah’s casinos.
There are items like fried chicken, roast pork loin, catfish, shrimp and “a killer chicken-fried steak,” which is fried in beef fat in a dedicated fryer, he said.
“I wanted to do a menu where everybody could sit down and read every word on the menu and pretty much understand it,” said Swad. “I’ve had experiences lately where I’ve gone into a restaurant and the waiter would explain what the chef created that day, and, I’ll be honest, I really didn’t know what he was saying. It’s moments like that that I believe increase people’s level of frustration and detracts from their level of enjoyment. I’m in the hospitality business, and I’m all about enjoyment.”
The menu also includes about 11 sides, and guests are served hot cheddar biscuits with the offer of spicy “hot” or regular honey at the table.
The bar is “not a craft-cocktail bar,” Swad said, but there are specialty drinks like Frozen Jack ‘N Coke, and frozen Lemon Hooch made with high-alcohol-content “moonshine.”
And of course, there’s pie for dessert. Swad said pie accounted for about 14 percent of sales during opening week.
The 280-seat restaurant includes indoor and outdoor seating. There’s a fire pit outside, along with double-sided porch swings.
Swad said Revella wrote the recipe book and developed systems for the scratch kitchen with growth of the concept in mind.
“I’m a process-oriented guy. That comes from developing concepts to franchise,” he said. “I tried to incorporate that into Porch Swing. When you have this many item that are scratch made, you have to have a consistent product every day, and you have to be able to produce the food to support the throughput I expect to do.”
Swad said the goal is to multiply the brand. A second ground-up location is planned for the Dallas area, and the third will move out of state to show proof of concept, he said.
But Swad said he has no plans to franchise. “My franchising days are in my rearview mirror,” said Swad, who opened the first Wingstop unit in Garland, Texas, in 1994.
Swad grew the chain to 90 units before selling it in 2003. Dallas-based Wingstop, now a public company, has more than 1,252 locations worldwide, most of which are franchised.
Porch Swing is operated under the Dallas-based company Latin Life Inc.
Swad said he is hell-bent on making Porch Swing work.
“I think I’m spot on with the concept,” he said. “It’s a little bit edgy and a little contemporary, but it’s traditional in some ways.”
And he added, “I would be a regular if I didn’t own it.”