OCALA, Florida — The buzz at Deluca Toyota isn't just about the 2015 Camry or 2015 Sienna. Customers are also drooling over Mr. D's Café, a gourmet eatery that is drawing a surprising number of people into the dealership.
By serving such top-shelf items as Maine lobster rolls, Heirloom tomato mozzarella salad and quiche with tomato, cheddar and kale, the restaurant is building a devoted fan base.
"We've had people come in for service, enjoy a meal there and come back the next day with a friend to sample the food," Vera Sandiford, fixed operations manager and vice president at Deluca Toyota, told Edmunds.
Café Deluca, as it's sometimes called, is owned by chef Leslie Dupont, who brings her Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe experience to central Florida, creating fresh dishes that highlight in-season ingredients.
Dupont's right hand is her husband, Jim, who is often delivering orders to service-department employees, allowing them to relax even more on their break.
"It's so nice to have the cafe here because it's easier on our customers, who used to have to be driven in a shuttle to the mall to get something to eat, as well as our employees, who might leave to grab lunch but don't want to in the pouring rain," Sandiford said.
Dupont sees her customer base shifting every day as people discover her daily specials and creative standard menu.
"It used to be that 70 percent of my customer base was dealership employees but now I see more members of the community here," Dupont said.
Friday seems to be the most popular day.
"Every Friday is lobster-roll day and now I have to quadruple the amount I make because so many people have heard about them," she said. "People are now calling ahead to reserve them."
Even busloads of retirement communities are phoning to say they are on their way.
"The food is excellent and it's reflecting well on Deluca Toyota," Sandiford said.
Edmunds says: The best way to a customer's heart, or repeated showroom visits, is with the help of a lobster roll and other goodies.