Ricky's urban concept works for hotels

By Colleen Isherwood,
Senior Editor

VANCOUVER — The Ricky’s Group of Family Style Restaurants
has gone urban with a new concept called Ricky’s Café that has just opened in
the SOLO District in Burnaby, B.C., and in Red Deer, Alta.

“It’s intended to be a newer, sleeker, more urbanized
model,” said Frank Di Benedetto, president and CEO.  “Think family style restaurant meets hipster,
craft-style platform.”

“The units are smaller at 2,800 to 3,000 square feet,
compared to Ricky’s All Day Restaurants at 3,600 square feet and Ricky’s
Country Restaurants at 4,500.” 

Ricky’s Country Restaurants are the former ABC Country
Restaurants, which Ricky’s bought in 2014. 
There are 88 of the Ricky’s Group restaurants across the country, mainly
in Western Canada.

The concept is suitable for hotels, Di Benedetto said, adding that 19 of their locations are part of lodging and hotel facilities.

Di Benedetto added that with 90 to 100 seats, and a cost of
$700,000 total turnkey including franchise fee, the concept should appeal to
franchisees with the right location. “Our strategy is to launch three, monitor
the progress and tweak the concept,” Di Benedetto noted. “It’s an additional
model for the Ricky’s Group. The price is more economical than Ricky’s All Day
Grill, and with sales volumes of $1.3 to $1.5 million, I’m pretty confident
there will be very good numbers for ROIC.”

The SOLO District in Burnaby is an ideal location for a
Ricky’s Café. The retail/office/residential complex is anchored by Whole Foods.
There are 260,000 square feet of offices. “But the real kicker,” according to
Di Benedetto, “is that there are four residential towers with 55 floors each.
Two have been completed, with Phase 3 coming in the next few years. We’re surrounded
by a corporate corridor along the Lougheed [Highway] and Willingdon [Ave.], and
there’s major retail and an industrial belt nearby. This makes it an excellent
choice.”

The SOLO Ricky’s Café has been open for four weeks, and Di
Benedetto said they are very pleased with the initial results.

Ricky’s Café’s décor package is distinctive, including
interesting woods, earth tones, exposed brick, butcher-block tables, an exposed
ceiling and a semi-open kitchen.

Off in one corner, fully exposed to guests, is a gourmet panini
sandwich bar, ideal for those who are in a hurry and don’t want table service.
“They wait about four minutes for a high quality sandwich — chicken pesto
artichoke, caprese, wine-braised beef short ribs or big rib stackers, mushroom
veggie Portobello or the old standby, the Italian deli sandwich — all custom
made,” Di Benedetto said.

There’s also a home meal takeout section, designed to be
more guest friendly than the grocery store or fast food experiences. The meals
are nicely packaged and the waiting area has comfortable seating and newspapers
to read while waiting for a meal, Di Benedetto said.

“Guests can get home meal takeout without going through the
regular full service process. As guests become familiar with the restaurant,
they can call ahead and order comfort-style dinners that are ready in six to
ten minutes.”

The home meal takeout menu includes global bowls,
wine-braised beef short ribs with risotto, home-style pierogies, spinach
ricotta ravioli, big rib stackers with fries, coleslaw and garlic loaf, or
traditional fish and chips.

Behind the scenes, Di Benedetto notes that there are two
pass-throughs in the kitchen, one for table service and one for home meal
takeout.

“The sandwich bar and home meal takeout give Ricky’s Café an
interesting twist. It steps up the tempo in the restaurant; it’s more energized
than the standard Ricky’s restaurant. And of course, Ricky’s Café has a full
bar.”

The Red Deer unit, which opened last month, is owned by the
same family that has the city’s two Ricky’s All Day Grills, and the Fatburger,
Di Benedetto’s other chain.

Next on the list is a third Ricky’s Café, slated to open
this fall in the upscale Morgan Crossing/Grandview Central area of Surrey, B.C.,
another retail/office/condo development in a very urbanized part of the
suburban Surrey market.

In addition to the Ricky’s Café, the company plans to open
Ricky’s All Day Grills in Edmonton Gateway, Acheson (near Edmonton), Bonneville
and Fort McMurray, Alta., as well as Hope and Parksville, B.C.