Ovation Bistro & Bar Restaurants in Polk County – Davenport, Winter Haven and Lakeland, is a family-owned business operated by brothers Joel and Fernando Rodriguez.
The Haines City born and raised brothers are proof that the American Dream is alive and well. Their parents were migrant workers that moved and worked in the fields all across the country. The season would determine where they would be, Indiana or New York in the summer months and Florida’s orange groves during the rest of the year.
Both brothers graduated from Haines City High and both joined the military. They served together in the U.S. Army and both are Combat Veterans of Afghanistan with a safe return in 2006.
After their discharge, they went to work as cooks and then managers at an Outback Restaurant. It was where they learned all aspects of the restaurant business, eventually running their own locations. Joel Rodriquez said, “We were the driving force behind the restaurants we ran and we got a paycheck but decided we could do better.”
As quoted on Ovation Bistro & Bar Restaurant’s website, one day the brothers asked themselves, “Why can’t we go somewhere to get real good BBQ and have a nice glass of wine or stiff drink?”
So, they decided one day, to open their own restaurant - a barbecue eatery, but which felt like a steakhouse and not like a quick service restaurant. They wanted their restaurant to be not only a great barbecue place, but have a comfortable atmosphere, a sizeable wine list, full bar, specialty coffees and desserts when they opened in late 2014 in Davenport. They have opened two more locations since 2014 - Winter Haven in 2017 and Lakeland in 2018 and there are more to come.
“We are opening up another one. Disney asked us to open up a restaurant on Disney property at Flamingo Crossing which open in April 2023,” said Joel Rodriquez.
Flamingo Crossings is a hotel, shopping and dining district developed by Walt Disney World, located minutes from the parks. This area has been dubbed Disney’s “Second Springs” because of the similarity to Disney Springs. When asked about plans for more Ovation Bistro & Bar Restaurants in the future, Joel Rodriquez said, “One will open up in ChampionsGate by the end of 2023.”
When asked about the effects of the pandemic on his businesses Rodriquez replied, “It was rough, all business owners were blessed and feel blessed to have (Ron) DeSantis as their governor. He saw through all the nonsense and all of the idiocy that went on. He truly followed the science and knew people have to live. I had to downsize a little bit but we managed to keep all three locations open. We are fully staffed and we offer our employees benefits like the big boys.”
The Ovation Bistro Foundation is their nonprofit company with the sole mission of helping Polk County residents and giving back to the community. They have donated over 30,000 meals with Feeding America Tampa Bay and support hundreds of charities. The Ovation Bistro Foundation even has its own scholarship program which recognizes local deserving students.