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PDQ brings affordable and quality fast-casual dining to Fort Myers

Story by: Cait Schall
Driving by Gulf Coast Town Center on an empty stomach is like going grocery shopping while you’re hungry; you will end up wanting to get something quick and easy to snack on. With a variety of restaurant chains at the mall, finding something delicious is easy. But, are you willing to sacrifice taste for quality? At PDQ, you don’t have to.
At PDQ, no matter what you get — a salad, sandwich or chicken tenders — it’ll be freshly made straight out of the fridge. Yes, you read it right — fridge, not freezer. The restaurant doesn’t even have a freezer because everything is freshly prepared on the spot for customers.
PDQ never uses frozen fries. They hand-punch potatoes daily, guaranteeing a fresh side to any meal. EN Photo/ Cayla Sloan
PDQ never uses frozen fries. They hand-punch potatoes daily, guaranteeing a fresh side to any meal. EN Photo/ Cayla Sloan

“We use all natural food, and we don’t use any GMOs,” said manager Jordan O’Day.
PDQ’s menu includes a mix of hand- battered chicken tenders, made-to-order sandwiches, hand-punched fries, hand-spun milkshakes and fresh salads. Besides fried items, you can also order your chicken grilled and pair it with a variety of sauces such as chipotle barbecue, creamy garlic and honey mustard. Then, you can substitute fries for blueberry coleslaw or fresh apple slices that come with a delicious toffee dip.
PDQ stands for “People Dedicated to Quality,” and the fast casual chain stays true to its name. O’Day said to guarantee fresh quality, they don’t hold on to anything past 10 minutes, so it’s unlikely for customers to receive their sandwich or fries cold.
There is a process the fries go through before making it onto the plate. First, PDQ employees hand punch (slice) them one by one, then wash them to get the starch out, then use a refractometer to measure the sugar content. Potatoes have to be at a specific amount of sugar, or they will burn in the fryers. Following that, they set them aside to age them until they are ready for the final process: wash, bake in the oven, chill, blanch, then fry.
Whether you walk in or go through the drive-thru, you will be welcomed with a personable and friendly staff, ready to take your order. Even in the drive-thru, staff will take your order face-to-face, not through a speaker, creating a more genuine atmosphere. “The founders really liked the idea that you have face-to-face contact with people at all times,” O’Day said.
“So, it has become a trend at all locations.”

You might think it would slow down theordering process, but it doesn’t. If a line does build up, staff will come out to your car and take your order with an iPad to speed things up, and when you pull up to the window, you’ll just pay and pick up your order.
According to the restaurant’s website, the founders — Outback Steakhouse co- founder Bob Basham and MVP Holdings CEO Nick Reader — spent more than two years developing the concept behind the brand and the quality of the food and establishments. The first PDQ location opened in Tampa on Oct. 30, 2011, and now has locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
There are two PDQ locations in Fort Myers — one in GCTC and one on U.S. 41 near College Parkway.
Another important aspect of PDQ, besides quality is that it’s affordable, even on a college budget. Its prices match up with other fast- casual chains, such as Chipotle and Moe’s.
Stepping into any of the locations, you’ll see that PDQ dedicates significant attention to philanthropy. Throughout the month of October, it raises funds for breast cancer research. Customers can purchase limited-edition shirts for $6 and receive a free 14-ounce shake. All proceeds benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
The GCTC location has worked with FGCU students and groups, such as the FGCU Swim Club, Phi Alpha Delta and L.A.S.O., on various charity events, which has brought an increase of FGCU customers to PDQ.
“Reaching out to those groups and us working hand in hand has helped our promise within Florida Gulf Coast University, and we have seen definitely a more collegiate-based clientele throughout the restaurant,” O’Day said.
The restaurant also offers Fresh Tours to give you a first-person perspective on how food is prepared at PDQ.

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