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New fusion restaurant cooking up Latin vibes

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GRILLiT to launch franchise operation in Elizabethtown

By Marty Finley

A restaurant specializing in Latin and Caribbean fusions will stake its second franchised restaurant in Elizabethtown.

GRILLiT — which launched its first location in Miami in 2011 and focuses on custom cuisine such as crafted rice bowls, pasta, shrimp, wraps and salads — intends to open its Elizabethtown establishment by the end of September. The restaurant is under construction at the former Church’s Chicken on U.S. 62.

Planning Director Ed Poppe said GRILLiT secured the building near Interstate 65 just past White Castle and Denny’s and plans to renovate it for use.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ghazi Hajj said the company received the needed approvals from the city and is in the process of obtaining equipment for the restaurant. He anticipated the company is about “four to six weeks out” from finalizing an opening date.

“We are excited about our newest franchisee in Elizabethtown,” Hajj said in a statement. “This will be our first GRILLiT location that is a standalone structure with a drive-through window.”

The company prides itself on healthy dining by partnering with domestic growers and cooking with Angus beef and fresh chicken rather than frozen meat products, according to a news release.

GRILLiT, a publicly traded company on NASDAQ, also offers an open kitchen with a “contemporary, industrial design.” Hajj said it will employ eight to 14, three to four of which will be full-time workers.

The company’s long-term plan calls for a minimum of 21 corporate locations and 58 franchise operations in the next five years across eight states, according to the news release. GRILLiT has secured master franchise agreements in Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and North Carolina. The company is in the process of finding franchise owners and operators.

Hajj said the company is  negotiating with landlords in Kentucky to establish more sites and he anticipates a location will open in Louisville later this year.

The first franchised restaurant is set to open soon in downtown Nashville and GRILLiT has two corporate locations in Florida. Hajj said GRILLiT will open a third Florida location at the University of Miami.

Hours of operation are expected to be 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, Hajj said.

Once open, GRILLiT will be the latest in a growing number of diverse culinary choices in Hardin County that range from Mexican and Asian fare to German, Indian and Thai options.

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.