Nationally-known PDQ restaurant chain got its start right in Tampa

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The fast-food restaurant chain is dedicated to employing “People Dedicated to Quality,” and while it is known nationally, it first started in Tampa.

Bob Basham, a co-founder of Outback Steakhouse – which also started in the Tampa Bay area – and Nick Reader, the former chief financial officer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, founded PDQ and opened its first location in Tampa in 2011. They were initially searching for something new, a place that served food fast and fresh.

A road trip guide them to Tenders, North Carolina, where they found their inspiration: made-from-scratch chicken tenders. And the rest was history.

While most locations exist in Florida, there are PDQ restaurants as far east as Arizona and as far north as New York. Soon, there will be a total of 65 locations in 11 states.  

“One thing we have learned is if you associate yourself with great people, you tend to do great things in life,” Nick told FOX 13, “And I was lucky enough to work with someone I looked up to growing up and was friends with.

Nick left his job with the Bucs to start PDQ because it was an opportunity to work with his friend and mentor, Bob Basham. As the co-owner of Outback Steakhouse, he said the chain has the same philosophy as the one applied to PDQ.

“The commitment to quality.  The commitment of putting people first.  The commitment to the hospitality side of it,” he explained.

Bob said the focus of PDQ was not just on the food, but also the people – the employees and the customers. 

“We want them involved in the community,” he said. “We want people to be recognized and be on a first-name basis.  You want to feel comfortable when you come in here.”

The founders said they wanted the restaurant experience to be “fast casual,” not “fast food.”

“We call it the theater of chicken,” Nick explained. “An open kitchen. I felt like a lot of fast food was like ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ What's behind the curtain? You saw a hole in the wall and a box dropped...something came out.  We said let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard.  Let's create something that chef-driven, high-end restaurants have.  That open kitchen is what makes the experience great.”

Both Bob and Nick keep circling back to their team. If there’s a secret to PDQ’s success, it’s that.

“You can have a great concept and a great building,” Nick said, “but if you don't have a great team or, we call 'em, people dedicated to quality, you can't survive in this industry.  It's just too competitive.”