BROOKSVILLE - Business has been so brisk since a Popeyes restaurant opened recently that the manager was forced to hire an off-duty police officer to help direct traffic during the dinner rush.
Manager Christian Aldridge said the chain is worried about safety and is pleased to provide the security as long as the customer crush continues.
The restaurant opened Dec. 28 and the drive-through lines have been so long the last week or so that cars have spilled onto U.S. 41 in the evening.
"We expected it," Aldridge said. "It won't be an everyday thing."
Brooksville Mayor Kevin Hohn said the crush of cars is good news for Popeyes and the entire city because it shows that a business is prospering.
"I think it's a great sign," Hohn said. "I wish every business in Brooksville had that problem and hopefully it continues."
Hohn said he suspects the overflow of traffic is due to the grand opening and believes the situation will improve.
"(But) if traffic becomes an issue, we'll certainly look at that," he said.
The new Popeyes is located in the former Arby's restaurant that closed last month at 843 South Broad St.
New Orleans-based Popeyes obtained a permit and renovated the building.
The fast-food chicken chain is known for its New Orleans-style menu featuring spicy chicken, chicken tenders, fried shrimp and other seafood, jambalaya, red beans and rice and other regional items.
Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said Popeyes is paying the standard off-duty rate of $25 per hour to maintain traffic control at the site.
U.S. 41 has four lanes so there is room for motorists to bypass the patrons sticking out on the road, Turner said.
The patrol car has been outside the restaurant from 5 to 9 p.m. since Jan. 1 and shows up every day. It will be up to Popeyes to decide when the officer is no longer needed, Turner said.
"They definitely needed some traffic control out there," Turner said. "I'm not surprised. It's a new business. I'm glad for them."
Tammy Smith, general manager of Brooksville KFC, located just south of the new Popeyes on U.S. 41, said she was concerned at first about the added competition but was assured by a chain official that business has not suffered in other areas where the two restaurants are in close proximity.
Having a choice of chicken places also benefits the consumer, she said.
"Sometimes it's good for us not to be the only chicken place in town," Smith said.
Some chicken lovers prefer spicy and some like the traditional taste, she added.
People, she said, will ultimately end up going to a restaurant where they get good service and enjoy the food. Smith said it's the same with fast food chains such as McDonald's and Wendy's restaurants.