Have you ever driven down the street to see a new place opening up and thought, “Hey, that used to be a [insert business here]”? Many times, businesses will purchase lots, demolish the former building, and construct a completely new one. When you think about it, that can get pretty pricey and take up a whole lot of time.
Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar had a better idea. They thought, “What if we used the same building, but completely renovated it?”
They are currently working on reviving an old Boston’s location in Fort Worth, TX. This location, which closed its doors six years ago, will now be under new ownership and completely updated with a sleek design, the latest tech, and plenty of to-go options. The Boston’s team is continuing to scout out locations – not just of former Boston’s – but of any establishment that they can renovate and revive as a franchise location.
We sat down with Ryan Reeves, vice president of franchise sales and development for Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar, to learn more about this innovative concept, the benefits for franchisees, and how other franchisors can make the most of this approach.
Franchise Chatter (FC): How did the idea to renovate former establishments and turn them into a new Boston’s location come about?
Ryan Reeves (RR): We realized there are some concepts that have large enough kitchens and ample space to create the lively sports bar component we seek. In a scenario where we can utilize existing infrastructure, we are able to enter into prime locations in well-established markets at a significant reduction in time and cost.
FC: What are the benefits to franchisees?
RR: It takes much less time to get up and running as opposed to a traditional location. It can save franchisees anywhere from 6-9 months due to the avoidance of planning and construction of the shell of the building.
Depending on the existing infrastructure, franchisees can also save on their investment – as much as 65%-80%! Finally, there is the peace of mind that comes along with having a solid, proven location. The fact that we renovate a former establishment means that in most cases, much of the infrastructure is there and there is great potential in that specific market.
FC: What are the main things you focus on when renovating, and what do you think will be the biggest differences between older locations and new locations?
RR: Due to the size of our menu and the fact that much of the product is made daily in-house, our kitchen is quite extensive. Significant planning goes into how we can salvage and reutilize existing back of house equipment and infrastructure while maintaining the necessary flow and efficiencies in our operations. When we look at potential retrofit opportunities, the first area of focus is always the size and flow of the kitchen. Having a kitchen that suits our needs already in place allows for big investment savings, as opposed to having to relocate or increase the size of an existing kitchen.
FC: How do you decide which locations to renovate into a Boston’s? What kind of criteria do you look for in a location?
RR: Internally, we look at the building size, kitchen size, and the general flow of the restaurant. Externally, we examine the location, ingress and egress, competitive set, and our standard market demographics and analysis.
FC: Walk us through the process of planning something like this. What are the main steps?
RR: Initial work is concentrated on sketching our kitchen into the existing four walls of the back of house. If that critical exercise passes, then we begin merging our prototype concept elements into the existing front of house. We must consider seating and usage of the sports bar vs. family dining area. We look at tailoring the seating ratio based on market dynamics and projected usage. Then, we have to take a deep look at patio space and how it flows from the sports bar. One important thing to keep in mind is that restroom locations can be costly if they must be moved.
FC: Why would you recommend this process to other franchisors? Do you have any tips/advice you can share?
RR: The cost and time savings can be significant. However, it requires flexibility from the franchisor to be willing to work with existing space constraints/as built. Know your minimum viable product, such as which areas you must be rigid and which areas you can be flexible going in. Identify 1-2 things that are most important to look for in a physical building in order to keep cost and time low.
FC: Where are your current second generation concept locations, and what are your future plans in regards to this concept?
RR: We focused on retrofits of a variety of casual dining chains throughout North America with 4 recent completions in the U.S. – Citrus Heights, CA, West Fargo, ND, Arlington, TX and the new Fort Worth, TX location.
We are in a unique situation in that we are able to lean on our parent organization in Canada for the basics, like marketing and branding assets, the menu, IT infrastructure, etc. The fact that we are just starting to expand in the U.S. allows us to be flexible in designing and operating non-prototypical restaurants. We are adaptable in how we approach new projects.