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Tampa's PDQ chain makes fan of Tebow

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Published:   |   Updated: April 30, 2013 at 10:17 AM
TAMPA -

After leading the University of Florida to a football championship and joining the New York Jets as quarterback, Tim Tebow can add another title to his career: chicken sandwich entrepreneur.

The originator of the Tebowing kneeling fad is financially backing several north Florida locations of the fast-growing, Tampa-based chicken sandwich chain PDQ. Tebow joins a growing list of other pro athletes backing PDQ in some form, including Derrick Brooks and Vinny Testaverde.

Tebow's Jacksonville site could open late this summer at 3260 Hodges Blvd.

Lest anyone worry that the devoutly Christian Tebow is tying his public persona to a restaurant with an acronym of profanity, company officials hasten to explain that PDQ stands for “People Dedicated to Quality.”

Tebow's enchantment with PDQ started last year. He was visiting an injured Marine in Tampa who had graduated from Plant High School, and the PDQ across the street brought in lunch.

“They liked the food so much they came back for dinner that night,” said Nick Reader, chief executive of MVP Holdings, which is the corporate backer of PDQ. Tebow and his brother Robby spent time chatting with company officials about the business, and Robby peppered the officials with a long list of questions about the operations, the job-creation levels, the processes, the expansion plans and so on.

In the following months, Tim Tebow showed up at the PDQ location in Carrollwood and posed for photos with fans/customers while Robby helped craft a deal.

“Tim has endorsement deals with Nike, Jockey and others, but this is our first real business venture where we have skin in the game,” Robby said, as his brother was in training for the NFL season and not available for comment. “The people involved are incredible, and the fact that the food is made fresh every day, and every time we've brought people in they've said it's the best chicken tender or milkshake they've ever had.”

Robby, 31, is president of XV Enterprises, which handles the off-field business activities for Tim, who is 25.

PDQ doesn't technically franchise their locations as McDonald's or Checkers does. Rather, the company has investors privately back a new location, and those investors share in the proceeds while PDQ retains control of day-to-day operations.

PDQ has seven locations open in Florida and North Carolina, and has seven more planned in the Southeast, including several backed by Tebow that could ultimately go in to Gainesville, Ocala and the Jacksonville area, with others to come in Georgia.

Tebow follows in the footsteps of many athletes looking for a career outside athletics.

Former NFL quarterback Dan Marino is an investor in the Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza chain, which happens to have a new location a block north of the PDQ in South Tampa.

Such deals often are wide-ranging, sometimes with athletes renting their name for a company's advertising, sometimes with athletes investing behind the scenes, and sometimes with the athletes building their own careers. Star quarterback Roger Staubach, for instance, built a successful commercial real estate practice in the off-season and founded his own real estate company.

Tampa's Lee Roy Selmon was deeply involved in founding the barbecue restaurant company that bears his name, and that restaurant group shares some backers with those who founded PDQ.

In some ways, PDQ has already started cooperating with Tebow. Food for Tebow's namesake celebrity golf tournament is provided by PDQ.


rmullins@tampatrib.com

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