TAMPA, FL. February 22, 2023 – Last year, 23 Restaurant Services acquired and added the iconic Don the Beachcomber restaurant brand to its already impressive portfolio. Today, in honor of Donn’s birthday (February 22), the Tampa-based hospitality company is moving forward with an expansive growth strategy for its new tiki-themed restaurant brand.
According to Marc Brown, president of 23 Restaurant Services, there are currently two Don the Beachcomber restaurants and bars under development in Central Florida, with the first slated to open by the end of the year. Initially, Brown expects there to be as many as 10-15 of the tiki-themed restaurants scattered across the Southeastern United States over the next several years, with plans to expand nationally.
Each of the restaurants will feature the eccentric, Polynesian-inspired design and flamboyant, rum-based drinks that have become synonymous with Don the Beachcomber locations for more than 90 years.
“Don the Beachcomber is the most iconic brand in tiki history, so it’s impossible to overstate how excited we are about what lies ahead,” said Brown. “We look forward to leveraging our expertise in management and operational excellence to reintroduce the world to the legend that is Don the Beachcomber.”
The expansion is being supported by a newly assembled advisory board made up of some of the most influential voices in tiki culture over the last 30 years. They are:
“Assembling this dynamic and legendary group of experts to serve as our advisory board was the first step in developing a plan to share and represent the history and life of Don the Beachcomber with the utmost authenticity,” said Brown. “We could not be more excited to share the work we are doing together to bring Don the Beachcomber back to life.”
Additionally, Marie King, former Beverage Director and General Manager of Tonga Hut in Hollywood, California, has joined the 23 Restaurant Services team as Director of Beverage.
Don the Beachcomber was founded by Donn Beach (born Ernest Raymond Gantt), an American adventurer, businessman, and World War II veteran. After traveling in the South Pacific and the Caribbean, he worked as a valet, dish washer, bootlegger, and movie advisor for a number of years. In the early 1930s, Beach opened the very first Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood, California, a block off Hollywood Boulevard. Inspired by his travels and the South Seas movies, he filled the new place with a collection of odds and ends he found and imported during his excursions (bamboo, fishing floats, grass mattings, etc.). And with it, he created a global restaurant trend that has lasted for nearly a century and became the founding father of modern-day tiki culture.
Above all, Beach was a legendary bartender who created a total of 84 mostly rum-based, Caribbean-inspired creations made with ingredients like falernum and fresh, local California produce. Among those drinks first shaken, stirred and blended by Beach were the infamous Zombie, as well as the PiYi (served in a miniature pineapple), the Missionary’s Downfall, the Vicious Virgin, the Never Say Die, the Cobra’s Fang, the Tahitian Rum Punch and the Navy Grog (said to be Frank Sinatra’s favorite drink at the Don the Beachcomber Palm Springs location).
As the bar’s extensive menu of cocktails and Chinese-American-influenced dishes continued to grow in popularity (Bing Crosby, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh are also said to have been frequent customers and friends), so did its national footprint, which eventually grew to 16 locations from coast to coast. The last location closed in 2018, in Huntington Beach, California.
“Beach’s legacy lives on in the modern tiki renaissance,” added Brown. “If not for him, tiki wouldn’t be the delightfully escapist, rum-soaked movement it is today.”
23 Restaurant Services is a Tampa-based restaurant company with a focus on creating connections with iconic brands. It currently operates 21 locations across the state of Florida. For more information, please visit 23restaurants.com and follow Don the Beachcomber on Instagram @dtb1932.