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Bennigan’s debuts prototype with new logo, design

Location is company's first new company store in two years

Bennigan’s Franchising Co. on Thursday opened its first company-owned restaurant since the heritage brand filed for bankruptcy and closed hundreds of units in July 2008.

Bennigan’s opened the new 4,200-square-foot location in Appleton, Wis. The restaurant features a new logo and signage, a centerpiece bar with 18 beers on tap, 180 seats and entertainment options, such as low-tech dartboards and high-tech Wii bowling as well as interactive table kiosks with pay-at-table technology.

David Goronkin, president and chief executive of Dallas-based Bennigan’s Franchising since April 2009, said: “It has a completely new look and feel. We had to make the Bennigan’s brand relevant for the 21st Century. … The only sacred cow was to keep the name.”

The restaurant features lighter woods, 20 high-definition televisions and a “sleek and contemporary look that’s cool and hip,” Goronkin said, adding that franchisees in Bahrain and Mexico already are adopting some of the design elements found in the new Appleton unit.

Bennigan’s has about 90 franchised units in 12 nations.

The $1 million store, which is situated in a strip-mall end cap, has 140 seats indoors and 40 on a patio featuring heated and illuminated umbrellas and a fire pit.

Goronkin added that Wisconsin was selected for the company’s first company store in many years because it’s in the Midwest “where the brand had success through the years.” The market was also open for company development, he said.

The menu features new items in the salad, sandwich and entrée sections but retains such signature dishes as the Monte Cristo sandwich. “We want to be known for having ‘American fare with Irish hospitality,’” Goronkin said.

The new unit also will have what Goronkin calls the three dayparts of lunch, dinner and late-night, serving a full bar and full menu from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday.

He envisions the concept being a fit for franchisees in “second- and third-tier markets where the big guys don’t want to play.”

“We know that to be a successful franchisor,” Goronkin added, “we needed to have our own facility.”

Bennigan’s Franchising Co. acquired the Bennigan’s brand in 2008, after parent S&A Restaurant Corp., a division of Metromedia Restaurant Group of Plano, Texas, and affiliated companies filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation and closed about 240 company units, including both Bennigan’s and Steak & Ale.

Goronkin said consumer research, testing and franchisee input led to the new corporate store.

“We have forged strong relationships with our franchise owners and have partnered with our franchise advisory board every step of the way, from raising the bar on operating standards to repositioning our concept for a strong future,” Goronkin said. “This new prototype captures all aspects of our new direction and we’re very excited to be growing again.”

In recent months the company also signed a global licensing agreement to take classic Bennigan’s menu items into retail channels.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].

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