December 1, 2020 - Zunzi’s, the popular fast casual restaurant known for its South African-inspired sandwiches and cuisine, is opening Zunzibar, a new sister concept. The beach-themed bar, which will serve frozen drinks, cocktails and beach beers, will debut early next year when Zunzi’s original Savannah restaurant relocates to a historic building on Drayton Street. The two concepts will operate out of the same building, each with its own entrance, while allowing bar customers to order and enjoy Zunzi’s signature menu while relaxing in the bar area.
The new concept is the brainchild of Zunzi’s owner Chris Smith and restaurateurs Trey Wilder and Rick Kunzi, known for the Savannah restaurants Treylor Park and Hitch as well as the upcoming Double Wide Diner.
“I’ve always had the thought of creating a sister concept for Zunzi’s,” says Smith. “With Savannah being a drinking town with alcohol permitted in open containers, I thought there would be a great opportunity for a bar concept in the right location. As Zunzi’s takes on franchisees going forward, they will have the option to add on a Zunzibar franchise as well.”
The new Zunzi’s and the first Zunzibar will inhabit the space most recently occupied by Green Fire Pizza at 236 Drayton Street. The building, site of a former gas station, is one that both Smith and Wilder had shown interest in over the years.
“Chris and I have known each other for years,” says Wilder. “Savannah is a pretty tight-knit community, and local businesses kind of stick together. We’d both been interested in the space at Drayton Street in the past, and whenever we got together, we would talk about it. We also said that when the right thing came along, we’d talk about working together. Well, the right thing came along, and it’s in that same spot that we always talked about!”
“Green Fire Pizza had an opportunity for a new location just down the road in Pooler, and when I learned that the building was available, I jumped on it,” says Smith. “The timing couldn’t have been better. Our landlord at our original location had decided not to renew my lease because we had become too busy, putting a burden on the building. Jeff Notrica, the landlord with Wisteria Investors, LLC, was extremely helpful negotiating a new lease during all the uncertainty of COVID-19 and giving us a good runway for growth. It all just feels like it was meant to be.”
The Savannah Zunzibar will feature a beach and nautical theme meant to recall the island nation of Zanzibar, a favorite vacation spot for Zunzi’s founders Johnny and Gabriella DeBeer, and will include driftwood, surfboards and beach-themed artwork. Assisting with the project are Christian Sottile, Sottile & Sottile, with historic preservation and design; Joel Berman, Berman Architecture & Design, LTD, with architecture and design; and John Lammons, Lammons Construction Company, Inc., with construction.
“We’ll be open for lunch, dinner, and late night with plans to expand hours in the morning,” Wilder says. “The long-term plan is to create a transitional space that is enjoyable for our guests all hours of the day.”
“It’s the perfect COVID-19 business model,” says Smith. “There’s a walk-up window for the Zunzi’s side and also a separate window for online ordering and delivery orders. On the Zunzibar side, we’ll have kiosks or you’ll be able to order food from your phone, and it’ll be passed through a window for Zunzibar guests to enjoy there in the bar.”