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    By Ed Marcum of the Knoxville News Sentinel

    Puléo’s Grille, looking for opportunities to expand its presence in East Tennessee, has seized an opportunity in the Chattanooga area.

    The Knoxville-based casual dining chain has a restaurant under construction off Exit 11 of Interstate 75 in Ooltewah, just north of Chattanooga. The 7,000-square-foot, 226-seat restaurant will mark the first time Puleo’s has done new construction for a location rather than move into an existing building, Puléo’s  CEO Gale Huneycutt said Thursday.

    IMG_9808“This is the first ground-up construction that we have done, and we are really excited about that,” he said.

    It will mark an opportunity for Puléo’s Grille, which has four locations in the Knoxville area, to expand outside the area. Puleo’s did have a restaurant in Cookeville and another in Murfreesboro. But those were not successful, and Huneycutt said that when the leases expired, the company decided to close those locations and wait for more-promising opportunities.

    With the Ooltewah location, Puleo’s believes it has a good opportunity, Huneycutt said. “We just felt there were better sites and better markets,” he said. “We’ve been looking at this one for some time.”

    With locations at 260 N. Peters Road, 7224 Regions Lane, 110 Cedar Lane and at Springbrook Center in Alcoa, Huneycutt said Puleo’s is not looking to expand further in Knoxville.

    “Right now, we feel really good about our four locations,” he said. “It’s easy to get overbuilt, so I think we have about the right number.”

    Chattanooga is a growing area, Huneycutt said.

    “The job growth and development there has been very impressive,” he said. “We felt like this particular area (Ooltewah) was underserved and didn’t have a lot of dining options.”

    The Ooltewah Puléo’s Grille will be just two miles from the Volkswagen Plant in Chattanooga, and close to a Walmart Super Center, Publix and a golf course.

    Asked about further expansion, Huneycutt said Puleo’s will see how the Ooltewah location does and then decide whether more locations in Chattanooga are warranted.

    Founded in 2002, Puleo’s features steak, seafood, Italian food and Southern-style cooking.

    It has won several awards for best restaurant in Knoxville.

    The under-construction Puelo's Grille

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