The first Tumbleweed Southwest Grill in Bloomington will celebrate its grand opening today. With its new location on the west side at 106 S. Franklin St., the restaurant specializes in mesquite steaks and ribs and other dishes with a distinct Southwest flavor.
The restaurant and its employees have high expectations for its grand opening.
"Our goal is just to become the best diner in town," General Manager Jeremy Sons said.
To achieve that goal, Tumbleweed is relying on the popularity of its menu, which ranges from a 22-oz. Cowboy Ribeye Steak to loaded baked potatoes and Tequila Salmon, Sons said.
Besides Southwest cooking, Tumbleweed also offers a little something for the over-21 crowd -- a full bar selection specializing in "Tumble 'Ritas" -- with a selection of peach, strawberry, banana or raspberry margaritas.
But as it often happens, franchise restaurants are built in commercial complexes, and Tumbleweed faces competition from nearby established chains like Texas Roadhouse, Outback Steakhouse and Cracker Barrel.
Nearby Texas Roadhouse managing partner Sherry Jeffers said she isn't afraid of the competition. In fact, she views the Tumbleweed opening as a boost for area-wide business.
"I'm not worried at all. There's been other restaurants opening, and I don't think one more will hurt," Jeffers said. "Actually, it's positive for us and other restaurants, as well because it'll bring more business to the West side."
Outback Steakhouse owner Terry Stanton expressed similar sentiments.
"People come to Outback for the entire experience. They like the food, they like the people who serve it to them. As far as a new restaurant, I say, the more the merrier," Stanton said.
The arrival of a new franchise the size of Tumbleweed creates close to 100 new jobs -- many of which are filled by students.
"I'd say we have 70 to 80 IU students employed now, and we still need a few servers to fill positions," Sons said.
Sophomore Jennifer Cecil is one student who took advantage of the prospect of employment. She's a bit anxious to get up and running and will be faced with the challenge of helping to get the restaurant off to a smooth start.
"I don't really know what it's going to be like working there," she said. "We've just been through orientation and training."
The restaurant will become the only Tumbleweed franchise in Bloomington, and is part of a larger 18-month expansion proposed by the chain's CEO, Terry Smith. Based in Louisville, Ky., the restaurant now boasts 62 locations in five states and international locations in countries such as Belgium, Germany and Saudi Arabia. The Bloomington franchise will become the 13th Indiana location.
Hours in the new Bloomington location are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
-- Contact staff writer Melanie Knapp at email@example.com.
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