The idea was sparked seven years ago.
Chris Garrido of Land O' Lakes and a friend came up with an advertising concept to place ads for local businesses in areas where they wouldn't normally pop up.
But Garrido tucked the business plan in the back of his mind. Life was comfortable. He had transitioned from a career as a TV sports reporter to working as a director of federal programs at Huntington Learning Center.
When the program Garrido worked on at the center was eliminated in late 2011, he decided to move forward with his plan to change the face of restaurant advertising in Tampa Bay with his company, Ads in Menus.
"I said," Garrido recalled, "There's no time like now to do it."
For most restaurant patrons, local menus at their favorite eateries aren't anything special.
Some are one page, on paper or in glossy form. Others fold out.
Garrido, married with a 2-year-old son, set out to change that earlier this year.
Using his own start-up money, Garrido, whose office is in Carrollwood, moved forward with the idea of allowing businesses to pay for advertising in menus for local restaurants.
But Garrido's menus differed from what patrons were used to seeing.
They were spiral bound, full-color and glossy with round page corners. They also allowed local businesses to advertise on pages that alternated with the restaurant's menu. Think of a Cheesecake Factory's menu, but with more ads.
The next step was getting a second opinion.
Garrido had no sales experience, but drew inspiration from his career pitching stories during his TV days.
Garrido had a prototype menu created to show a friend of his who owns O'Brien's restaurant in Carrollwood. His friend loved it. But his friend's ex-wife and business partner didn't.
Garrido admitted that he "sulked for a day," but figured he could pitch his idea to another O'Brien's. He decided on the Brandon O'Brien's, and struck gold when the owner there allowed Garrido to launch his menu idea there in February of 2012.
Garrido said the menus are free for restaurant owners, who receive 100 menus every three months, allowing them to change their menus or prices four times per year.
Revenue comes from local businesses, who pay for the ads in the menus, which is how Garrido has been able to make a profit. Re/Max, for example, paid $500 for one ad that lasted three months in a restaurant's menu.
Now, Garrido is working with Bay area clients from Brandon to Clearwater. Locally, four north Tampa businesses have been using the menus: O'Brien's in Carrollwood, who ended up signing on in July, Side Splitters Comedy Club, Ballyhoo Grill and the Tampa Pitcher Show.
Since starting his company, Garrido has worked with 13 restaurants and now employs two sales representatives. His goal is to get signed on with a chain of restaurants and provide menus for them.
"I'm proud of what we've done, and excited about what we haven't done," he said. "We could be in 50 restaurants by the end of the year. It's a win-win for me and restaurant owners."
Kevin Sparkman, a managing member of Sparkman & Sparkman P.A. in south Tampa, said his law firm doesn't use billboards for ads, so using Garrido's company has been beneficial.
"I've got friends and people who Facebook me and email me and say, 'Hey, I saw your ad,'" Sparkman said. "That's really what we want. To be out there and for people to see us."
Have you seen Garrido's menus in local restaurants? What do you think of them? Tell us in the comments.