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Florida’s seafood grill continues its rapid growth

Tim Timoteo was just interested in creating a single-unit restaurant that captured the essence of old Florida when he opened R.J. Gator’s in 1986. The company is now a multi-unit chain that is expanding throughout Florida and beyond.


Jupiter, FL - Stuffed alligators and kitschy signs adorn the walls in a Florida Everglades lodge atmosphere reminiscent of a woodsy, rustic and spacious log cabin. Waiters and waitress, called Everglades Guides, wear shorts and bright shirts, and serve tasty delicacies like alligator tail and handmade coconut shrimp. R.J. Gator’s is all about good times and good food in a festive family-friendly atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re embarking on an Everglades adventure. All that’s missing are the air boats and the mangroves.


Since opening with one location on Indiantown Road in 1986, Jupiter-based R.J. Gator’s has built its reputation on providing guests with a varied selection of Florida-style menu items amid a captivating Everglades-themed ambiance. Tim Timoteo, who founded R.J. Gator’s with his late wife Joan, had owned and operated Mr. Angus Steak & Seafood, a successful chain in Pennsylvania before they sold it and relocated to Florida.


Timoteo was interested in starting another restaurant, so he intently searched for a niche – the type of place that would stand out from the crowd. After traveling around the state, Timoteo realized that most restaurants catered to tourists, and not the locals who lived in the respective communities. This led the ambitious entrepreneur to create a place where locals could savor tasty pub food amid a rustic Everglades lodge theme where the real Florida springs to life.


"When I moved to Florida, I saw that most of the restaurants were for tourists. There was no Cheers-type bars like we had up North," said the affable Timoteo, who greets colleagues and strangers alike with a wide smile and a welcoming handshake. “I wanted to open a place that catered to local residents and evoked feelings of Florida and the Everglades as soon as you walked in.”


There are two stories behind the name of the restaurant. Initially, the “R.J.” portion of the name was conceived by taking Timoteo’s first initial (his birth name is Reginald) and the first initial of his late wife, Joan. Then, as the restaurant opened, Timoteo hatched an idea for a rockin’ and jammin’ gator as the restaurant’s logo and mascot.

Locals and visitors alike are fond of the family-friendly and kid-friendly hometown grill and bar with a Florida flair. Because of its unique menu and exciting atmosphere, R.J.Gator's has become the place that locals take their out-of-town friends.


Today, R.J. Gator’s is known for Florida signature foods like alligator tail, Havana banana chicken with black beans and rice, and handmade coconut shrimp with sweet plantains. With appetizers – or gatorizers, as they are called at the restaurant – like Florida Alligator tail and blackened alligator, and lunch specials such as the Okeechobee chicken breast and the Siesta Key seafood bucket, guests cannot help but immerse themselves in the culture of "Old Florida."


Frozen margaritas and alligator alley punch are favorite drinks at R.J. Gator’s. They are needed to wash down the eatery’s award-winning chicken wings served with a choice of nine different sauces.


Just as its menu has evolved from wings, shellfish and sandwiches to a savory seafood grill with fresh fish and steaks along with its original signature items, R.J. Gator’s has also experienced significant growth. Today, the restaurant has evolved into a thriving 18-unit chain, with plans for another 25 locations within the next five years.


Originally, Tim Timoteo did not plan to offer R.J. Gator’s franchises. Yet, after the first restaurant opened in 1986, and popularity grew, the entrepreneur was consistently approached by customers who were interested in opening their own R.J. Gator’s location. Today, the restaurant has evolved into a thriving 18-unit chain, with plans for another 25 locations within the next five years. The company, which is based in Jupiter, has 18 locations – eight company-owned restaurants and 10 franchise locations.


"We offer something different," Timoteo said. "Customers wanted to eat in our restaurants because they're different from other places. People want to franchise them because it gives them an opportunity to do something different."


Loyalty and respect are two reasons why franchisees and executive level team members are devoted to Timoteo and R.J. Gator’s. Many staffers have been with the chain since its inception – including Timoteo’s son, Mitchell Timoteo, who is senior vice president and handles corporate and franchise relations; and Jim Samuel, the company’s vice president and director of marketing.


R.J. Gator’s is so renowned restaurant franchise circles that, when a U.S. Department of Commerce sponsored program for Russian business leaders was held in South Florida earlier this year, the program’s director arranged a visit to the Jupiter location, where Timoteo answered questions about his chain.


"We have especially thrived in recent years, and I was happy to pass on what I know,” Timoteo said with a grin. “And I mentioned that we don’t have any franchises in Russia – yet.”


R.J. Gator’s is renowned in its communities for generously helping civic, children’s and charitable organizations. Each year, the restaurant has a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and a Christmas toy drive. R.J. Gator’s locations also host charity nights where non-profit organizations receive a percentage of the evening’s sales.


“Over the years, we’ve had ups and downs, but overall we have experience a lot of success,” Timoteo said. “I believe that every business should give something back to the community. I want to do my part in helping the people in the towns where we’re located because, without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”



For more information contact:

Quantified Marketing Group