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Chain Offers Authentic Taste of Bahamian Culture

Walking into Kafé Kalik Royale, visitors encounter hallmark traits of Bahamian and Caribbean cultures. Bright colors—tangerine oranges, seafoam blues, butter yellows and sea greens—along with wood tones, dramatic lighting, Bahamian artwork and a large open kitchen reflect the feel of the islands.


Tyrone Nabbie, founder and president of Kafé Kalik Restaurants USA, strives to capture a celebratory spirit in this themed restaurant. The chain operates four locations, the newest of which is in Orlando's Prime Outlets International, a shopping mall on the city's well-traveled International Drive. Nabbie hopes to grow the chain to 10 units in the U.S. during the next five years.

Authentic specialties at Kafe Kalik include conch fritters, coconut shrimp, Junkanoo chips, Bah-Mex lobster roll, wood-oven-roasted shrimp scampi, conch chowder, yardie-spiced curry chicken, chicken-in-a-bag, sweet potato fries, Cajun-rubbed mahi mahi, Bahamian bullabesa, sushi, Bahama burgers, fried plantains, peas and rice, and creamy tropical Bahamian-style fruit ices.

On weekends, costumed musicians stage a Junkanoo (see sidebar) by rushing throughout the dining areas playing Caribbean instruments and performing the limbo and ring-play dances. The musicians encourage customers to dance and enjoy the festivities. At the same time, the chef and kitchen staff participate in a mini Junkanoo celebration.

“Our goal is to build an energetic brand that gives a strong ethnic experience of the Bahamas,” Nabbie says. “Our menu has cultural diversity, but 40 percent is Bahamian. The other 60 percent takes customers around the world with a fusion of Bahamian fare. The authenticity of the food and décor and the “kalik” sound of the cowbells bring the essence of the celebration of freedom. Junkanoo itself has an ancestry from Africa, which is an integral part of our concept.”

Nabbie, a Nassau native with nearly 40 years of foodservice industry experience, adds that the restaurant's staff also conveys the Bahamian culture in the gracious way they treat one another and guests.

“Working with Nabbie, interior designers James and Pamela Hall, and kitchen designer Tom Galvin (FCSI) I wanted to contrast the calm, open, breezy tranquility of the Bahamas with the vibrant colors and action of the Junkanoo festival,” says Bruce McMillen, AIA, the project's architect and president of the McMillen Design Group.

Outside the facility, two metal sculptures of Junkanoo dancers—one with cowbells, the other with a drummer—greet visitors. Just inside, a rain screen with a plexiglass base offers a tranquil scene. In this area, colors of the Bahamian sea and sky combine with the colors of Junkanoo to suggest action, energy and celebration.

The tropical motif of the full-service bar, known as the Well, features dark woods, millwork and LED lighting. Beneath the bar, etched copper- and bronze-colored metal with splashes of orange and gold add flash. Two slushie machines sit to the left of the beer towers.

The dining room, known as Bay Street, seats 350. Two private rooms, the Junkanoo room and the Rawson Square Room, offer seating for 45 guests.

“A local faux-style painter used different colors on the ceilings to evoke various moods and settings,” McMillen says. “The main dining-room ceiling is a soft blue-green like the ocean, the bar area has sunset oranges and yellows, the private-dining areas are night skies, and the entry is a daytime palette. The Straw Market, or the gift shop, has ceilings painted with fire colors.”

Decorative light fixtures with stencil cutouts contribute to the main dining room's atmosphere. “We used three colors of wood stains to create the appearance of native wood,” McMillen says. “Wood tambour is placed around the planters. A wood screen with three different colors of wood that are staggered vertically and horizontally is placed between the main entrance, dining room and bar to allow customers to see beyond the area in which they are sitting.”

In the kitchen, called The Shack, “food is prepared with energy and the work ethic of perfection,” Nabbie says, explaining that the energy the kitchen staff put into creating the food helps establish the mood of the entire space. “Nothing is hidden. Food doesn't leave The Shack to go to Bay Street until it is perfect,” he says. “Servers are performers and they and the cooks are on stage, showing off to the world, and they love it.”

The open portion of the kitchen consumes nearly two-thirds of the kitchen space; the remainder contains a walk-in cooler, walk-in freezer, dry-storage, shelving and pot and dishwasher. This back-of-house space also operates as a food-prep area, with a food processor, vegetable dryer, worktables and food slicer.

The Shack is composed of two areas with a center aisle; one side is the Arawak Cay Sushi Bar and the other is the Bahama Grille, which offers a twist on teppanyaki. Six prep, cooking and pick-up areas allow staff to work efficiently to produce the highly diverse menu. “Staff can pick up left to right and right to left,” Galvin says. “The flow isn't traditional. One person picks up dishes, so when the server is free, he or she can go to different stations.”

At Arawak Cay Sushi Bar, staff prepare sushi at a designated station and display it in a refrigerated case. Refrigerated drawers beneath the counter hold back-up ingredients. A nearby ice flaker provides easy access to ice used for the display.

Seats at the sushi bar provide a close-up view of the action. “We lowered the counter height to 30 inches so customers of any age can sit here,” Galvin says. A gelato case next to the sushi cases displays various tropical flavors and fresh fruit.

Behind the counter and display case, a rice cooker and refrigerator hold ingredients for sushi prep. An adjacent counter with suspended heat lamps serves as a pickup station for items from nearby Bahama Grille.

Diagonally left of the gelato case is the main cooking line, where staff use fryers for conch and fries; a pizza oven for flatbread; a combi-oven for chicken, pork and other meat items that require moisture retention; as well as a wood charbroiler, range and rotisserie.

“Three pick-up areas for fried items, grilled items and roasted dishes each have heat lamps and pass-windows,” says Galvin. “The black lamps hanging from the ceiling warm up the plates. On another level, the heat is on the bottom side of the top shelf and drives it down to the second shelf. The bottom shelf contains pan chillers and space for staff to build plates.”

Soups and salads are prepared at the middle island. At the salad-prep station, a cutting board covers the stainless-steel cold rail to maintain its temperature overnight.

Kafé Kalik is “a concept with legs,” Nabbie says. “You can't build a concept around a celebrity, for example, because when their popularity is gone, the brand wanes. When you build a brand around a real culture, it has legs. Unless a wave washes it out, the Bahamian culture will be around for a long time.”

Kafé Kalik: What's in a Name

The restaurant's name refers to the sound of a cowbell. Their instrumental use can be traced to Junkanoo, a centuries-old night of freedom first celebrated by Bahamian slaves. Slave owners allowed them a day of celebration, to don masks and elaborate headdresses and play instruments such as cowbells, horns, whistles and drums.

The essence of Junkanoo remains as a Bahamian festival that attracts thousands of natives and tourists on Boxing Day, December 26, and again on New Year's Day, beginning and ending at dawn. It is reminiscent of New Orleans' Mardi Gras and Rio de Janeiro's Carnival.

Facts of Note

Ownership/Headquarters: Orlando; privately-held by Preferred Choice Restaurants, LLC, the operating entity for Kafé Kalik Restaurants USA

Opened: First Kafé Kalik Express at Freeport Grand Bahamas Airport, International Terminal, in 2004. Kafé Kalik Barefoot openedin Orlando International Airport in 2001; another Barefoot unit opened in Nassau, New Providence, in 2008. Kafé Kalik at Prime Outlets International in Orlando opened 2008

Units: 4 (all company-owned)

Size: Grand Bahamas, 3,000 square feet; Nassau, 4,000 square feet; Orlando International Airport, 2,900 square feet; Orlando, Prime Outlets International, 10,000 square feet

Seats: Orlando and Bahamas airports, 100; Nassau, 175; Orlando at Prime Outlets International, 350

Average Check: Orlando Prime and airports: $15-$17 lunch, $20-28 dinner

Total Annual Sales (projected): Orlando, $3.5 million to$4 million; $8 million for the brand

Transactions: Orlando, 1,000 to 1,500 covers daily

Expansion: Plans for eight to10 more locations in the next five years

Hours: Orlando, 11:30 a.m. -11 p.m., lunch and dinner only

Specialties: Authentic Bahamian cuisine, including conch fritters, coconut shrimp, Junkanoo chips, Bah-Mex lobster roll, conch chowder, yardie-spiced curry chicken, chicken-in-a-bag, sweet-potato fries, Cajun-rubbed mahi mahi, Bahamian bullabesa, Bahamian-style sushi, Bahama burgers, and tropical ices

Staff in Orlando: 50 employees (Prime and airport)

Total Investment in Orlando: $4.5 million

Equipment Investment in Orlando: $600,000

Key Players

Founder and President, Kafé Kalik Restaurants USA (brand registration): Tyrone Nabbie

Managing Partners, Preferred Choice Restaurants: Tyrone Nabbie, Bassel Maali and Chad Maali

General Manager, Orlando: Maxine Prendergast

Executive Chef, Orlando: Leonard Hall

Architect: McMillen Design Group, Kissimmee, Fla.; Bruce McMillen, AIA, president

Interior Designers: Contract Link, Inc., Maitland, Fla., James and Pamela Hall, owners

Kitchen Consultant: Galvin Design Group, Inc., Winter Garden, Fla., Thomas Galvin, FCSI, principal,

Equipment Dealer: C&T Design & Equipment Company, Inc., Fairfield, Ohio; Gary L. Lanman, sales

Construction: Encotech Services, Inc., Orlando, Fla., Joseph Younes, principal