Waldo's Coming to Arkansas


Waldo's Coming to Arkansas
(Waldo's)

The Keet family’s JTJ Restaurants is launching a joint venture that’s planning to open up to 20 Waldo’s Chicken & Beer restaurants in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The first in Arkansas, a store that will serve as a prototype of future restaurants, will be in the former Johnny Carino’s at 4221 Warden Road near McCain Mall in North Little Rock, Jim Keet told your Whispers staff. JTJ hopes to have it open in June 2021.

His son Tommy Keet is leading the project, and on the day Whispers visited with the Keets, they were on their way to northwest Arkansas to look at a potential Waldo’s site.

The Keets already own a Waldo’s in Tulsa with partner Mike Pierce Jr.

Waldo’s Chicken & Beer is a concept belonging to the restaurant group Fresh Hospitality, based in Nashville, Tennessee, which also is behind the Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe brand and a number of other restaurant concepts. The only other Waldo’s is in Nashville.

The Keets also own several Taziki’s, as well as Cypress Social in North Little Rock. The Keets are working on the Waldo’s expansion with Pierce, Michael Bodnar, chairman of Fresh Hospitality, and Mark Waldo, a Fresh Hospitality operating partner.

“It’s a very high-quality product,” Jim Keet said of Waldo’s, calling its chicken “the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in my life.”

Waldo’s also offers “fire-roasted chicken” and about 16 beers, many of which are craft, as well as a full bar.

The North Little Rock Waldo’s will have 3,000 SF inside and a 600-SF patio.

Asked how the pandemic had affected development of the Waldo’s restaurants, Tommy Keet said: “It’s actually shown the importance of providing great food through a drive-through,” adding, “We think it fits well with what we believe the changing mentality of our customer will be.”