They’re going to need a bigger Mac

Customers told them, “We grew up. McDonald’s didn’t.” So, like fast-food peers Burger King and Dunkin, McDonald’s has been busily remodeling its 14,000 U.S. restaurants, introducing double drive-thrus, digital ordering kiosks, pay-and-pickup services, Uber Eats delivery, redesigned counters and private seating areas, easy-to-read digital menu boards, expanded McCafé counters and display cases, and a so-called SAM Wall (the euphemistically named “service area modernization barrier”) to separate and hide the kitchen from the front counter.

“Customers are rewarding us for the investments we are making,” McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a late July investors’ call which reported record sales growth in the once-flagging chain. In what Easterbrook called “the largest construction project in our history,” the remodeling program has moved at a blistering pace, at one point in 2018 fast-forwarding 10 restaurants a day.

Among them, the Fort Myers McDonald’s at Colonial Boulevard and Summerlin Road reopened in March 2018 as a two-story restaurant — only the second such McDonald’s in the nation.

“We didn’t have the space to widen it and also get the double drive-thru,” explained franchise owner Tim Fenton, who’s in his 46th year with McDonald’s, retired as chief operating officer six years ago and now owns 17 area stores.

The modernization push, continuing through 2022, will include Fenton’s stores in Port Charlotte and North Port in a planned corporate investment of $186 million in 240 Florida outlets.

Port Charlotte’s Promenades McDonald’s already has a new double drive-thru and fresh landscaping.

North Port’s McDonald’s at 14805 Tamiami Trail, just north of S. Sumter Boulevard, held its grand opening Aug. 9.

The Charlotte Harbor store at 4695 Tamiami Trail is slated for renovation, a new cut-through entrance and a double drive-thru, starting in mid-September.

The Port Charlotte Murdock location, in Village Marketplace next to Carrabba’s Italian Grill, is permitted for a complete demo and rebuild, starting next June.

During renovations, no employees will be displaced. “We’ll temporarily move them to other stores as needed,” Fenton said.

Hive celebrates two years

The Hive Bar will be buzzing all day Saturday, Aug. 17. It’s celebrating two years in Port Charlotte with four food trucks, drink specials, live music and evening Bar Olympics.

Starting at noon, local food trucks The Maine Menu, Mumsy’s Caribbean Grill and J&K’s Mobile Café will serve everything from Maine lobster rolls and chowdah to jerk chicken, classic sandwiches and fries. What The Fork Food Lab’s “Big Bang Theory”-themed food truck will handle dinner service.

Billy Bob and the Cowboy Cartel performs country and classic rock from 1 to 6 p.m.

The Hive Bar (941-889-7607), 4095 Tamiami Trail (north of Chubbyz), is open daily 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Free chikin—there’s an app for that

From Aug. 1 to 29, participating Chick-fil-A restaurants in Southwest Florida (including Port Charlotte) will help guests “Eat Mor Chikin” by offering them one free Chick-fil-A entrée per customer—the Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich, Spicy Chicken Sandwich or Grilled Chicken Sandwich—via the Chick-fil-A app.

Guests who claim the offer at the “My Rewards” tab in their Chick-fil-A One account online or in the app can visit any participating Southwest Florida Chick-fil-A restaurant to redeem their free entrée at checkout.

Chick-fil-A ($), 941-766-6106, 1814 Tamiami Trail (Shoppes of Port Charlotte), is open Monday to Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

OTB doesn’t like its own chili

Charlotte Harbor’s Over The Bridge (OTB) recently posted on its Facebook page, “OK, I’ll admit I’m not a fan of our chili.”

Today, if you’re willing to relinquish rights to your own chili con carne recipe, and believe it’s the best in town, you can prove it, win $250 and a trophy, and have your chili immortalized as the OTB house chili.

Just don’t get us started about whether it should have beans in it.

OTB’s Chili Cookoff Challenge starts at 7 p.m., but contestants should arrive early to register and set up their precooked, ready-to-eat, 1-quart concoctions, along with serving utensils and crockpot.

Complete contest rules are under Events at the OTB Facebook page.

Over The Bridge ($-$$), 941-391-5792, 4300 Kings Highway, Unit 412 (Schoolhouse Square), Charlotte Harbor, is open daily 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage.

Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at suewade47@aol.com.

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