Middletown residents and visitors soon will be able to enjoy a steak dinner before heading to the movies.

Middletown residents and visitors soon will be able to enjoy a steak dinner before heading to the movies.

A Texas Roadhouse franchise owner confirmed this week that his company has signed a lease to build a new, 7,200-square-foot steakhouse in the Westown Town Centre commercial complex off of U.S. Route 301 that currently houses Westown Movies, Middletown’s brand new 12-screen multiplex theater.

“Right now, we’re in our due diligence period in which we’ll be going through the permitting and licensing processes,” said John Altomare, a principal owner of Kentucky-based Hospitality Development Partners LLC. “But our expectation is to be up and running sometime around the end of the second quarter or early in the third quarter of 2014.”

Construction on the standalone Middletown location is expected to begin in early spring and reach completion about three months later.

Altomare said the restaurant would likely employ about 150 to 180 people, with hiring set to begin once construction is completed.

Hospitality Development Partners, which will be operating the new Middletown location under the name Middletown Steakhouse, currently owns a Texas Roadhouse in Seaford and five other franchises in Maryland.

As with most of its franchise restaurants, Kentucky-based Texas Roadhouse Corporation would manage the Middletown location, Altomare said. The 21-year-old company currently owns or operates more than 400 restaurants in 46 states, including the three existing Delaware locations in Bear, Camden and Seaford.

This week’s announcement that a Texas Roadhouse soon will be opening in Middletown comes about 10 months after Mayor Kenneth Branner announced the chain was exploring a location here during a speech at a Middletown Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

At the time, the public relations director for Texas Roadhouse said the company had no plans to open a restaurant in the Middletown area in 2013 or 2014.

But Altomare said he and his partners have been looking to bring the steakhouse to Middletown since making an unplanned trip here just over a year ago.

“We were driving up the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the Bay Bridge was closed so we were forced to head into Delaware, which gave me my first look at Middletown,” he said. “We saw that it’s had a lot of growth and seemed to be a great, thriving community so we started taking a look at it for our next location.”

Rick Roman, whose company manages Westown Movies, said the restaurant’s arrival could be a boon for the fledgling multiplex.

“A lot of people like to go out to dinner and a movie, so having a new restaurant right next door will be great because it will allow people to do both within just a few hundred feet,” he said. “We’ll be happy to have them here.”

Altomare agreed that the restaurant’s proximity to the new movie theater could be mutually beneficial to both businesses. But, he said, Westown Movies’ December opening was just one of several factors that convinced Hospitality Development Partners to sign a lease at the Westown Town Centre, which is also slated to include a new church and a hotel sometime around the end of 2015.

“Obviously, the theater is a nice draw that will help bring people to the restaurant,” he said. “But we looked at the community overall – how it feels and how it’s being served – and felt we could add real value in terms of the products and services we offer.”

Texas Roadhouse’s menu includes steaks, ribs, chicken and seafood with most dinners priced between $8 and $20.

“We use a made-from-scratch concept that includes our own in-house butcher shop and bakery, as well as homemade salads, dressings and side dishes,” said Jeff Ziccardi, who will serve as the Middletown restaurant’s market partner. “That all takes a tremendous amount of preparation time, which is why we’re typically open only on evenings Monday through Friday, with lunch and dinner hours on the weekends.”

The average Texas Roadhouse seats about 280 people and typically sees 5,000 customers per week, according to the company’s website.