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The second location that opened this month in North Naples launched the expansion of the Lake Park Diner concept that began in 2019 in the Lake Park neighborhood of Naples.  

Lake Park Diner co-owners Smith Organics and Paul Fleming Restaurant Group anticipate 50 locations of what will be a Naples-based chain.  

“With experience we’ve had, if you can do three or four really good restaurants—and we’re taking our time and doing that—you can clearly do 50,” said Paul Fleming, a Naples resident known for creating popular nationwide restaurant chains, such as P.F. Chang’s and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. “But you have to do three or four correctly first, and we’re off to a good start here.”  

Paul Fleming and Jody FlemingThe 50 locations would stretch throughout Florida and beyond, said Jody Goodenough-Fleming, Paul’s wife and CEO of Paul Fleming Restaurant Group.  

“We see the concept being able to be dropped in different locations, for sure, outside of Florida,” she said. “But, right now, our focus is on Florida.”  

“One of the things that worked for us with our other concepts is we’d like to be able to drive to the next few restaurants,” Paul Fleming said. “So, that limits you somewhat to Florida, whether it be Fort Lauderdale, Estero—which we’re looking at—we would both like to literally drive there in our car so that would limit us geographically somewhat.”  

Local developer Adam Smith, who co-created the inaugural Lake Park Diner as a spinoff from his Smith Organics food truck, died three years ago but the legacy of his vision endures. Adam Smith’s family—wife Kelly, son Miles and daughter Ruby—are part of the Lake Park Diner chain and joined the Flemings in the Founders Square ribbon-cutting this month.  

“The growth plan that Paul and Adam originally discussed and created is still our plan,” Goodenough-Fleming said. “We were delayed originally because of COVID and, obviously, with Adam’s passing, but we really are on track, and actively looking for locations.”  

Up next will be a Bonita Springs location coming to the south side of Bonita Beach Road west of U.S. 41.   

“It is still under construction, and we do not have an opening date,” Goodenough-Fleming said.  

The Flemings also plan to grow their other Naples-based restaurant concept, PJK Neighborhood Chinese, which debuted early last year in downtown Naples. The second location is coming later this year in the Coconut Point restaurant space that used to be The Saloon and Blue Water Bistro.   

“That’s our baby. We’re actually looking at different locations now,” Goodenough-Fleming said. “And the demo has already started on Estero, so we hope to be open prior to the end of the year.”  

While maybe not destined to be another P.F. Chang’s, Fleming thinks PJK has potential.  

“It’s different enough that we could do, not necessarily a lot of them, but we can grow it. We do these things, particularly Chinese, because I love the food. That’s how I got into it originally. I just love the flavors.”  

The Flemings offer an inspirational objective for Naples, home to family-born regional restaurant chains, such as Pinchers and Skillets. The Fleming name could propel the local restaurant group into a major company akin to Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, which operates Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, The Capital Grille, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Seasons 52 and Yard House; or Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands, which operates Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill. Paul Fleming still has a partnership with Bloomin’ Brands and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse.  

“They’re our partner in Fleming’s and have been for 18 years, Fleming said. They own more Fleming’s than I do—they have forever—and they’re fabulous partners. We had one big public company and they taught us a lot about being service-oriented.”  

A restaurant group based in Naples can be a local economic driver and provide employment opportunities.  

“It’s not hard to recruit people to move here, Fleming said. “Executives who want to grow big businesses, you don’t have to ask them twice; they’ll move here in a second. We’ve had good luck with that. We’ve had people with businesses we bought and sold that came down here and ended up raising their kids here and never left, so it’s a fabulous place to draw people to. It’s not a hard sell.”  

Recently chatting about Lake Park Diner, it’s easy to see what attracts Paul Fleming to the restaurant industry and keeps him coming back to create new dining concepts.   

“I’m an eater,” Fleming said. “I don’t miss a meal and I usually get like chicken wings and a Mediterranean salad with shrimp on top. We try everything but we sit down and eat like everybody, and we have our favorites.”  

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