SoFresh, a health-oriented restaurant chain with five locations in the Tampa Bay area and two in Pittsburgh, is negotiating for space in a Lakeland shopping center, Tampa Bay Business Journal reported.

The company, whose fast-casual restaurants offer hot bowls, salads, wraps, broth bowls, smoothies and juices, did not specify the Lakeland location but said it’s in a center that’s anchored by a Publix Super Market, according to an article behind TBBJ’s paywall.

With the coronavirus forcing many small businesses to close shop, SoFresh has been able to expand by taking over existing leases, and that’s the case with the Lakeland location.

SoFresh was positioned to weather the pandemic because its stores already relied heavily on take-out and delivery options. Before the pandemic, the split between dine-in and dine-elsewhere was 50/50, but some stores are seeing dine-away proportions up to 90%, according to  Clay Donato, partner and vice president of development.

SoFresh is opening a new location in Tampa’s Westshore district after taking over a former Fitlife Foods storefront and is negotiating for a spot in Carrollwood, TBBJ reported.

The SoFresh website already lists Lakeand as “coming soon.”

The company is reducing startup costs by moving into smaller spaces —  1,100 to 1,400 square feet compared with the 1,600-to-1,800 range of existing stores, Donato said.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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