New restaurant rumors often run wild across Sam Houston State University’s campus, especially regarding the food industry in Huntsville.
With the university’s growing population, word of certain restaurants coming to town has become more frequent, regardless of its legitimacy.
Aron Kulhavy, city economic development director for Huntsville, confirmed some new additions to the restaurant industry but also laid to rest several rumors that have resulted from hearsay.
According to the Panda Restaurant Group, which owns “Americas fastest growing Chinese restaurant concept” Panda Express, the restaurant chain has made Huntsville its next target.
The construction on the new opening is set to be finished in a timely fashion, according to Kulhavy.
“Right now Panda Express is under construction along the interstate,” Kulhavy said. “I would expect another 90 days [till opening], weather permitting.”
Although nothing has been confirmed at this time, the area within the vicinity of Olive Garden seems to be prime real estate for other new restaurants.
“There have been negotiations between the city and a developer to develop a strip center that would include a Buffalo Wild Wings and a Chipotle on the property located just north of Olive Garden, but plans for those two places have not been turned in yet,” Kulhavy said.
Recently, buzz has been surrounding the arrival of Louisiana-based Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. According to the restaurant’s job application site ApplyCaniacCareers.com, there are job openings for operations management at a new location to be located somewhere along Interstate-45 in Huntsville.
Raising Cane’s representatives were unable to be reached by press time, and Kuhlavy said the city has heard nothing on their end about the future of a Huntsville Cane’s.
“That would be great,” Kuhlavy said. “They have not turned in plans [or] permits for the city yet. Hopefully they come. We would welcome them.”
Chic-Fil-A has been the subject of ongoing gossip throughout the grapevine. Kulhavy dismissed the speculation at this time.
“I can confirm that they have not turned in plans for construction at this time,” Kulhavy said. “We would be happy to have them here.”
For citizens of Huntsville and students of SHSU in seek of a fine cut of prime rib, Kuhlavy said the city is vigorously working to bring a new steakhouse to town.
“There’s a big push for a steakhouse,” Kulhavy said. “We’ve been in talks with more than one company. We’re trying to work with them and convince them that Huntsville is a good place for them to locate.”
Kulhavy said one specific restaurant company is interested but has not “pulled the trigger yet.”
For students that prefer not to eat out, there are two grocery stores expanding their operations within the city.
Kulhavy said a new Kroger is under construction and will have a new deli. H-E-B recently purchased property formerly occupied by Hastings Entertainment and plans to open a store at that location.
Due to H-E-B’s purchasing of that location, other businesses on that lot must close or relocate once their contracts expire. Los Panchitos Mexican Restaurant closed its doors Saturday as its lease on the lot expired.
Kulhavy also referred to the restaurants that have just opened of which some students may be unaware.
“Jimmy John’s just opened with the City Hall Café the most recent to open before that,” Kulhavy said.
Several other potential restaurants ranging from fast food to finer dining have discussed the possibility of expanding to Huntsville with city staff. However, Kulhavy did not mention any specific restaurants.
Though nothing has been confirmed at this time, Kulhavy said the city welcomes new restaurants and has continued interest in new openings.