NewsLocal NewsLee County


FORT MYERS | New food truck hangout opens despite having no one to work

LEE COUNTY | New Fort Myers social venue opens doors amidst labor shortage
Posted at 10:38 PM, Oct 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-19 07:27:05-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A 3-year-old plan for Fort Myers' newest social spot opens its doors Thursday, but Fox 4 got a sneak peek of the hangout on Wednesday.

Backyard Social located off of I-75 and Alico Road in Fort Myers has food and entertainment options for all.

"I've been here for about 15 years, Mat's been here his whole life, and there's never really been a lot to do," said John Mann, Co-owner of Backyard Social.

"We wanted to bring this to town so that we could have something to do as well for all of our friends and family.”

However, Mann along with his partner Mat Baum said the development process was a learning curve for them.

“Two years ago today, we were ready with an engineering firm, with everything to go straight into doing everything we needed for zoning," said Baum.

"It took about 14 months before we could put a shovel in the ground, so the actual building and all the infrastructure only took about nine or 10 months to complete.”

The Backyard Social is now opening just in time for the Southwest Florida tourist season and one year out from the rebuilding efforts of Hurricane Ian.

"Fort Myers is growing," said Baum. "There's a great demographic here. It's not Fort Myers 40 years ago or 30 years ago when I was growing up, it's different."

However, with opening a business in the midst of a nationwide labor shortage, there is some concern.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, the food service industry is struggling the most and currently has the highest "quit rate" being consistently over 4.9 percent since July 2021.

"You see people quitting their jobs, like never before, to find someplace that fits that for them," said Baum. "I'm hopeful that, you know, in the food and beverage space that's kind of what we're fulfilling for them."

Both Mann and Baum noted with the location being centralized to new housing developments, golf courses, and Florida Gulf Coast University, they expect crowds of all types.

"It's going to bring up the economy way above what we expect, just in this area, because this area is really growing," said Mark Miloff, Membership Director for the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.

The Southwest Florida locals say they are excited to see their three years of work come to life.

Backyard Social opens to the public on Thursday.