Tim Bunch’s philosophy is simple: serve good food, take care of your customers, don’t cut corners and close on Sunday.
Bunch, 51, is a former college football player who found his way into the restaurant business after his playing days were over. In 1997, he converted a former Hardee’s fast food restaurant into a cafeteria. The thriving business expanded into a new building five years later.
Last week, Bunch opened his second location of Longstreet Café. Located in the former Fraser’s Country Style Restaurant at 405 Pearl Nix Parkway, the new Longstreet is a smaller version of the original, but the formula is the same.
"We do it all the right way," Bunch said. "We make our biscuits by hand and we peel real potatoes to make our mashed potatoes."
Bunch acquired the property last year and had visions of a cosmetic face lift for the building.
"We ended up changing everything," he said. From the serving line you can see the gleaming, new stainless steel commercial kitchen equipment. The booths that were in the dining room were reupholstered and table tops were given a new finish. The color scheme has the maroon signature color that Bunch uses at the main location.
The Longstreet Café name clearly registers with residents on the west side of town.
On Thursday, Bunch turned on his marquee sign for what he hoped would be a soft opening for the store’s first day. A few minutes later, the drive-through lane held a full compliment of cars and trucks seeking a biscuit and coffee. Bunch believes drive-through business may account for half of the traffic at the new store.
He feels comfortable that there is a solid market for cafeteria style breakfast and lunch in his new area.
"It can take 30 minutes to get across town, if traffic is bad," he said. "Now, our customers can find us without having to go very far."
Bunch, who grew up in Lincolnton, near Augusta, began his restaurant career with the Shoney’s chain, first in Athens, then Gainesville. He managed the former L&K Cafeteria before buying the Collegiate Grill in downtown Gainesville, which he sold before starting Longstreet.
His mentor in the restaurant business is Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A. He admires Cathy’s business acumen, but especially Cathy’s strong Christian faith and principles.
Bunch considers his own business part work and part ministry and wants his own faith to show through his businesses.
"We been really blessed," he said.
The new restaurant will only be open for breakfast and lunch, with plans to expand for dinner service later.
The hours are 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.