KEARNEY — The couple who launched the Sozo American Cuisine restaurant in Kearney in 2013 said Wednesday they have two new restaurants on the drawing board and an investment group ready to back them.
“I want people to know that we’re alright and we’re going to open a new restaurant,” said Travis Evans, who, with his wife, Sara, operated Sozo at 110 Second Ave. in the Holiday Inn and Angus Burgers & Shakes at 421 Talmadge St.
The Evanses no longer are operating the two restaurants and have ended their agreement with investors Dale and Shawna Klute of Kearney. According to the handshake agreement with the Klutes, Evans and his wife would have become 50 percent owners of the restaurants after the Klutes recouped their investment. However, Evans said it would have been too costly for his wife and him to continue after the July 9 flood, which extensively damaged both restaurants.
The Evanses and Klutes also were operating an Angus Burgers restaurant in Omaha.
Sign up for Kearney Hub news alerts
“The flood really was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was just too much money that had to go back into it,” Evans said about the cost of flood repairs. Evans said it was an amicable breakup, and that he and Sara are grateful the Klutes gave them an opportunity to pursue their dream of opening Sozo and Angus Burgers. The Klutes own Nebraska Star Beef, which is served at Sozo and Angus Burgers.
A Facebook post Tuesday by Sozo and Angus Burgers wished the Evanses good luck: “Travis and Sara Evans have decided to move on to their next adventure and have left Sozo American Cuisine and Angus Burgers & Shakes. We appreciate what they have done for our restaurants, and we wish them well.”
General Manager Liam Mendoza told the Hub on Tuesday that Angus Burgers will reopen in two weeks or less and that Sozo would reopen in mid- to late September as an Italian restaurant named Joy’s Table in honor of Dale Klute’s mother. Mendoza said the new Italian menu is being developed and will feature Nebraska Star Beef. Some pasta entrees will be in the $14 to $15 range.
Much repair and remodeling, along with equipment installation must be done before Joy’s Table opens.
Travis Evans said one of the two restaurants he and Sara are planning will be a new concept for Kearney, while the other will be similar to Sozo, except for its name.
He anticipates one of the new restaurants will open in mid-November. The second restaurant will open in 2020, he said.
The Evanses received their culinary training in Lincoln. They opened Sozo in 2013. In 2015 they began featuring the Klutes’ Nebraska Star Beef. In 2016, with the Klutes’ backing, the Evanses opened Angus Burgers in Kearney’s hotel district, and in 2016 they opened Angus Burgers in Omaha.
Evans declined to identify the investors or reveal much about the restaurants he and his wife plan to open later this year and in 2020, except to say they’ll be in existing buildings.
“The structures are built and they’re not in the hotel district,” he said. “Our mission when we came out here was to change the food culture of Kearney. We still have that goal.”