As the economy has grown, so have the choices for Orangeburg diners as new restaurants moved into the community.
And more are expected to follow.
Orangeburg residents “are going to be pleasantly surprised with the announcements coming very soon,” said Randy Etters, chairman of The One Orangeburg County Initiative’s commercial, retail and housing task force.
Etters made the comments during a March meeting of TOOCI.
Sonic is planning a drive-in at the corner of Citadel Road and St. Matthews Road. It will be located near Interstate 26 next to Bojangles.
The project is going through the various permitting processes from both local and state government.
Mike Irons, who is the president and CEO of the Sonic Irons Group, owns more than 100 Sonics in South Carolina, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia.
His plans for the new Orangeburg restaurant include a dining area similar to the North Road Sonic, which Irons also owns. That restaurant was renovated in 2015 to include an indoor dining area.
Irons noted the St. Matthews Road area near the interstate has plenty of restaurants, including Hardees, Wendy's, Zaxby's and Chick-fil-A.
"It needs a Sonic," he said.
Irons is still working through the permitting process with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.
Should all go well, construction could start as early as the first quarter of 2019 and should start construction this quarter and open by July, said Irons.
Etters said in March, "There are restaurants that are very close to getting ready to announce. There are seven fast-food or counter-service type of restaurants that have their eye on Orangeburg.
“There are three sit-down restaurants scattered out from U.S. 601 to Walmart” on North Road. "Several have signed a memorandum of understanding."
One in particular is a southwestern-style restaurant. Etters wouldn’t identify the restaurant by name due to confidentiality agreements.
The One Orangeburg County Initiative's commercial, retail and housing task force has engaged a consulting firm to help identify retail, restaurant and entertainment businesses that might be a good fit for the community.
Several restaurants have been identified as a potential fit for Orangeburg, including Firehouse Subs, Smashburger, Dunkin Donuts, McAlister's Deli, Panera Bread and Golden Corral.
The area has seen its fair share of restaurant announcements in recent months.
Arby's opened a new, 2,850-square-foot restaurant on John C. Calhoun Drive on Feb. 12, 2018.
The restaurant features wood tones, white brick, upgraded lighting, upgraded landscaping, subway tiles, stainless steel finishes and chalkboard graphics.
The newest restaurant is located at the site of the former Captain Pete’s seafood restaurant, which closed about three years ago. A Quincy’s Family Steakhouse occupied the site in the 1990s.
Two of Orangeburg's McDonald's underwent upgrades.
The restaurants have new kitchen layouts with a preparation line and conveyor belt.
The restaurants also have ordering kiosks in the lobby to give customers a way to order digitally. Table service will also be provided.
The restaurants also provide customers with a mobile order and pay option.
Restaurants that have opened in the Orangeburg area within the past two years include:
Kentucky Fried Chicken closed its Orangeburg restaurants with no announcement and no explanation in October 2013.
But in the summer of 2016, KFC returned with a new location at 661 John C. Calhoun Drive, near the intersection with Magnolia Street.
It is the only KFC in the Orangeburg area.
Groucho’s Deli of Orangeburg opened in the former All Star Deli at 1208 St. Matthews Road in the middle of June 2016.
The restaurant sells salads, sandwiches, BLTs, low-fat meals, vegetables, junior and kids meals, and sides including Greek olives and baked chips.
A Town Wings located in the former KFC restaurant at 886 John C. Calhoun Dr. in 2017.
The restaurant serves wings, fries, fried rice, Philly cheese steak sandwiches, salads, burgers and fish. The menu boasts about 20 different wing flavors.
Golden Chick opened in January 2017 at the former KFC located at the corner of Chestnut Street and Columbia Road.
Golden Chick serves fried and roasted chicken, as well as catfish, salads, vegetable sides, fountain drinks, tea and lemonade.
CiCis opened in June 2017 on Chestnut Street near the Prince of Orange Mall.
The restaurant has a variety of pizzas, from the traditional tastes of pepperoni, cheese and meat lovers to more nontraditional toppings such as macaroni and cheese and barbecue pork. Pizzas are also made to order.
The 4,100-square-foot buffet-style restaurant has a salad bar, wings and desserts.
The building was originally constructed to house Red Lobster, which arrived in Orangeburg in 1994. Red Lobster closed after five years. It then housed Rosalia’s Mexican restaurant.
A New Orleans-style shaved ice chain, Pelican's SnoBalls, opened in August 2017 at 1988 St. Matthews Road.
The restaurant is open through the warm season with typical operational months being from March to October.
The business offers more than 100 flavors of shaved ice.