Pacini eyes hotels for steady restaurant growth

Close up shot of Pacini bar.

Close up shot of Pacini bar.

By Don Douloff, Assistant Editor

MONTREAL — Pacini Canada Inc. is eyeing new-builds and conversions inside Canadian hotels for sustained growth of its casual Italian restaurant concept.

In the next two to three years, the company is targeting 15 to 20 locations, part of a larger plan to reach 200 restaurants within 10 years, Lafleche Francoeur, vice-president of business development, told CLN.

Thirty restaurants operate, 28 in Quebec and the balance in Alberta. Four hotel locations operate, in the Acclaim Hotel, near Calgary airport; Hotel Universel, in Alma, Que.; the Moose Hotel & Suites, in Banff, Alta., opened in July; and Auberge Gouverneur Shawinigan, in Shawinigan, Que., opened in spring.

A site is under construction in Hotel Le Navigateur, in Rimouski, Que., and is expected to open in December, according to Francoeur. A deal has been signed for a freestanding Pacini to open in front of the Courtyard Toronto/Mississauga West property that’s due to open in the early part of Q2, 2017. The restaurant is expected to begin construction by year’s end, targeting an opening by March, 2017, said Francoeur.

The first hotel location opened in the Acclaim property in 2011 as a test of the Pacini concept outside Quebec. That site “has done very, very well,” said Francoeur. Although Francoeur will consider freestanding, non-hotel restaurants, “90 per cent of franchising requests are coming from hotels.”

Going forward, all provinces will be considered for hotel locations, but Alberta and Ontario will be the focus, he said. Since the brand is established in Alberta, it’s a natural fit for growth, he added, and Atlantic Canada represents a “natural evolution” for Pacini. “We’re in negotiation with 25 to 30 hotels in every region.” Larger cities are preferred.

In Quebec, Pacini will consider smaller markets, and indeed, situating inside hotels enables Pacini to locate in smaller population areas, since hotel guests provide a built-in customer base. Restaurants also draw from locals, said Francoeur.

New builds and conversions

New builds and conversions will be considered equally. In hotels that converted their restaurants to the Pacini concept, room occupancy rose by 2 to 3 per cent, and an onsite Pacini drives guests’ decision to stay at those properties, said Francoeur. When a Pacini site opens, hotel restaurant revenues rise, he added.

Hotel sites require at least 4,500 square feet. Ground-floor locations offering good external exposure and a separate entrance are required. Mid-scale to higher-end hotels will be considered. 

Up front, hotels pay $1.5 million, which covers the franchise fee and construction costs. Once the restaurant opens, hotels pay a royalty of 4 per cent of gross sales, and an additional 4 per cent of gross sales that is pooled in a national marketing fund.

Restaurants serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with weekend brunch. Menus are themed casual Italian — pastas, pizzas, appetizers and main courses — and offer an all-you-can-eat bar where guests grill bread slices and top them with spreads and jams. Gluten-free options are available, as are allergen-free dishes made and sealed offsite by a third party. Locations feature a dining room, lounge and a market area, dubbed a ‘piazza,’ selling Italian oils, pasta sauces, dry pastas, chocolates, etc.

In addition, Pacini provides all onsite event catering for its host hotels. “This cuts operational costs and helps hoteliers maximize efficiencies,” said Francoeur. Catering menus are adapted locally.

Pacino Restaurant in Trois Rivieres.

Pacino Restaurant in Trois Rivieres.