Big Orange 2 Pulls in Cash, Customers at New Midtown Location

Big Orange Midtown officially opened July 17 in the Midtowne Little Rock shopping center at 201 University Ave., and co-owner Scott McGehee says business has been so brisk he expects that within 18 months revenue there will outdo that of his other restaurants.

The Big Orange in west Little Rock, which opened in August 2011, was the top-grossing independent restaurant in the city in 2012, bringing in $2.6 million in food sales, according to Little Rock Advertising & Promotion Commission data.

“We were real proud of that,” McGehee says. But “I think Local Lime is going to beat them pretty good this year. Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. And then I think Big Orange Midtown will probably beat Local Lime next year.”

Local Lime is the tacos-and-margaritas-with-a-twist restaurant McGehee opened in November in the Promenade at Chenal, near Big Orange west.

The veteran restaurateur helpfully broke down for us his partnership arrangements in his burgeoning central Arkansas restaurant empire. McGehee is a one-third equal partner with John Beachboard and Herren Hickingbotham in the two Big Oranges. The three men are also equal partners in ZaZa in the Heights. At ZaZa in Conway, however, the partnership consists of McGehee, Beachboard and Adam Sweet. And at Local Lime, it’s a four-way partnership with McGehee, Beachboard, Hickingbotham and Ben Brainard.

“We just opened but it just feels right,” McGehee said of Big Orange Midtown. “It’s a cool location. It’s a great area. There’s a lot of rooftops. We can already tell that the lunch business in Midtown is going to be a little more significant, and I think dinner business will be neck-and-neck with our west Little Rock location. …

“We have a much bigger bar as well, which should translate into some more revenue.” (Liquor sales are not included in A&P data.)

Asked what his future holds, McGehee says, “We have three great concepts, between Local Lime, ZaZa and Big Orange. … Generally, if we find a really incredible space we’ll kind of see which one of those concepts fits best. But we’re also passionate about developing new and exciting concepts.”

He adds that if his second Big Orange does as well as he and his partners hope, “I think there will be the impetus to potentially expand that concept relatively quickly.”

Although McGehee says that “franchising is not really what we do,” he acknowledges that if the dollars were right he could be persuaded. And what he calls “chaining” is a possibility. “We would not be opposed to opening a store or two in the Dallas area or some other good market.”

He and his partners, however, currently have their hands full and, McGehee says, “We think there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity still left in the Little Rock metropolitan area.”