When Todd Hovenden opened Biaggi's Italian restaurant in Bloomington in 1999, he had never run a restaurant before.
Nearly two decades later, Biaggi's has been established as one of Bloomington-Normal's most popular restaurants—and now has 19 locations in nine states.
“Since I was 14 years old, I’ve always been focused on finding an opportunity to get into the restaurant business and it actually took me until I was about 30,” Hovenden recalled as he described how he created Biaggi’s nearly two decades ago.
Now Hovenden is branching out, launching the company's first Mexican Tex-Mex restaurant that will open in the spring, next door to what will be the new Biaggi's location at the northeast corner of Empire Street and Airport Road in Bloomington.
Hovenden said the new restaurants will offer a more casual atmosphere, to reflect how customers’ dining habits have changed over the years.
“There was a time when people did make more of an effort to make an occasion of dining out,” Hovenden said. “People are so busy and they’ve got so many other things going on in their life, there are so many ways to find entertainment and spend time with family and friends.”
He said the new Biaggi’s, aside from being larger and with more parking, will have higher ceilings, less dark wood, more color in the restaurant and a larger bar area.
Hovenden added the company is hiring new chefs who will be dedicated to establishing the Mexican cuisine, rather than simply hiring over those working at Biaggi’s.
“You can’t just take somebody who has knowledge of Italian cuisine and have them develop your restaurant for a Mexican concept,” Hovenden said.
He added if the Mexican concept takes off, the company is prepared to expand to other locations just as Biaggi’s has done.
“We have to come up with an entire menu and the recipes, so we have a lot going on with this, but the intent is if there’s opportunities out there for us to grow this concept the way that we’ve grown Biaggi’s, we are certainly prepared to do that,” Hovenden said.
The still unnamed Mexican restaurant is expected to open next March.
Biaggi's plans to open its new location next fall. The current restaurant will remain open until then. The company is also moving its corporate offices to that location.
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