Lawyer Abdul Arif buys Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria at NewMarket Square

WICHITA — Abdul Arif swore he’d never do it again, but he’s getting back in the restaurant business.

Arif says he closed on a deal Wednesday to buy Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria in NewMarket Square and plans to make some changes, though incrementally, and expand with more restaurants.

Years ago, the lawyer says, he had a couple of Indian restaurants “that I lost my shirt on.”

The difference now, he says, is his tenant at Sutton Place, Gerard Rodriguez of Anna Murdoc’s Cafe, is going to run Avivo in addition to having an ownership stake in it.

“We made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, just like the pizza mafia guys do,” Arif says jokingly.

He says Rodriguez went to culinary school and has a passion for food.

“I’m not passionate about food like these guys who go to culinary school,” Arif says. “You can’t get them to shut up.”

Tony Suellentrop, whose family started Avivo, says other demands prompted the sale.

“We have a lot going on,” he says.

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Abuelo’s inching closer to west-side deal

WICHITA — Abuelo’s, the Mexican restaurant chain that opened at the Waterfront in April 2004, is working on a deal for west-side space.

“It’s been a good market for us,” Abuelo’s director of marketing Melanie Carroll says of Wichita.

She says the Lubbock-based company is always looking for growth opportunities and believes Wichita could sustain two Abuelo’s restaurants, but she won’t share details beyond that.

Landmark Commercial Real Estate president and CEO Brad Saville, who represents Abuelo’s in Wichita, says the chain is eyeing three west-side sites and hasn’t yet determined where it will go.

Other sources, though, says Abuelo’s is getting closer to a deal at a site near the Kellogg and Ridge Road corridor not far from where the new Twin Peaks is going to open.

Earlier this month, Have You Heard? reported that Twin Peaks, which already has an east-side site, is going to open at 7325 W. Taft. It will be in a building across Ridge Road from Carlos O’Kelly’s and Panera Bread, which is south of Maple and Ridge.

The area is becoming a hot spot for restaurants such as Applebee’s, McAlister’s Deli, Chipotle Mexican Grill, IHOP and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers among others.

Look for more news on Abuelo’s in the months ahead.

Twin Peaks has west-side space, and it isn’t where anyone suspected

The west-side Twin Peaks will be on the north end of this building across Ridge Road from Carlos O'Kelly's and Panera Bread.

The west-side Twin Peaks will be on the north end of this building across Ridge Road from Carlos O’Kelly’s and Panera Bread.

WICHITA — There’s been a popular guessing game of where the west-side Twin Peaks might go. As it turns out, it’s not opening at any of the spots most people thought it might.

Franchisee Rusty Rathbun considered most of those sites, but he’s settled on 7325 W. Taft instead.

“It’s been overlooked from a retail perspective,” says Dan Unruh of InSite Real Estate Group.

The building, which is across Ridge Road from Carlos O’Kelly’s and Panera Bread, was built as office space that most recently was home to American Family Insurance.

Gallery Expressions will be Twin Peaks’ neighbor to the northwest across a parking lot, and the Lowe’s at Maple and Ridge Road is just north of that.

“This one kept coming up as a great site if we could just make the building work,” Unruh says.

InSite is part of South Ridge LLC, a group that purchased the 16,800-square-foot center where Twin Peaks is going.

Rathbun says he seriously considered about 15 properties before deciding on the Taft site.

“It works because of the traffic count and all the number one restaurants in the area,” he says.

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Panera Bread franchisee Randy Simon working on drive-throughs

WICHITA — More than one diner has bemoaned the lack of drive-throughs at Wichita’s Panera Bread restaurants, but Randy Simon would like to change that.

The franchisee is working with neighbors and the city to add a drive-through at his Panera at 1605 N. Rock Road, which he thinks he might be able to do by February.

Panera has retrofitted about 90 of its stores with drive-throughs. The first was in Missouri several years ago, and the chain tested it for a couple of years before expanding to other Paneras.

Simon says his first drive-through retrofit was eight months ago in Independence, Mo.

“It has increased the sales and not distracted from the execution of the concept.”

He built his Derby Panera with a drive-through, but Simon now has to figure out a way to make the additions work at his other Paneras.

He’s talking with his landlord at his Panera near Central and Hillside.

“There seems to be just a little glimmer of a possibility that we could do something with that store,” Simon says. “Basically, it’s almost like creating a second restaurant.”

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Restaurant updates in Wichita, Derby

WICHITA — As always, there’s lots of restaurant news to update.

– The Burger Barn is closing this week. Owner Isaac McCann has had the restaurant at Central and Zoo Boulevard since January. He says poor sales and a dispute with his landlord have prompted him to close. Also, he’s in school to become a teacher.

“I’m just going to concentrate on my studies.”

McCann will close Saturday unless he runs out of food before then.

– In Derby, Dawn Thai Steakhouse & Sushi Bar is converting to Hibachi Boy Japanese Grill & More. Lou Kumgool still owns the business with her husband, Philip Sayavong.

“I just want to bring something fun and casual,” Kumgool says of the change.

She says she looked around and saw that people from the nearby high school and water park weren’t stopping in. She says too many people thought the restaurant was more formal, so she says she’s going to be “more casual, fun, inviting and family oriented.”

Kumgool is keeping the Dawn Thai menu and adding hibachi items and some other dishes and reopening Wednesday.

She says the new concept is similar to Panera Bread where customers order at a counter and get their own beverages.

“It’s more laid back that way.”

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Panera Bread isn’t coming to Andover yet

WICHITA — Andover residents often wish for more restaurants in their backyard, and Panera Bread is tops on that list for some.

Is there a chance it’ll happen?

“I suspect it’ll be as soon as they have a daytime population,” says Panera franchisee Randy Simon.

Simon says a Panera needs to see 800 people a day “in order to be economical at all.”

“If you go into areas that don’t have much daytime population, it is very difficult to try to survive.”

The problem with Andover, Simon says, is so many residents drive to Wichita for work.

“We do 85 percent of our business between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m.,” Simon says.

Andover residents shouldn’t give up hope, though.

“I continue to talk to people out there,” Simon says.

Simon is working with his Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers partners — his brother, Bill, and Scott Redler — on two new Kansas City area restaurants.

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Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is getting a new corporate office

WICHITA — Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is getting a new corporate office at 260 N. Rock Road, which is conveniently located across the parking lot from the Freddy’s restaurant at 310 N. Rock Road.
“I obviously was cheering for this one,” says Freddy’s partner Randy Simon, whose Panera Bread office shares the same lot as well.

The Freddy’s partners, who include Scott Redler and Simon’s brother Bill, have been leasing about 3,500 square feet at 1445 N. Rock Road.

Now, they own the 18,000-square-foot building at 260 N. Rock Road, of which they’ll use 6,000 square feet on the upper level.

“With our expansions – we just opened our 74th restaurant – and in our current location we’re busting at the seams,” Redler says.

The chain’s 75th restaurant opens this week. There are eight corporate stores out of the 75. The rest are franchises.

Redler says they want to make sure to keep ahead on resources for franchisees. The company has six franchise business coaches and is looking to add a couple of more.

“We just want to have the right space to do it right,” he says.

Remodeling will start in a month. The new space should be ready to move into by the end of the year.
“This should cover us for a lot of years,” Redler says.

Another 15 to 18 Freddy’s restaurants will open this year. That includes a third one in Kansas City at the end of September near West 119th Street and Blackbob. Three more Kansas City area restaurants are in various stages of development, including one near West 107th Street and Roe Avenue in Overland Park that also should open by the end of the year.

Redler says there likely will be a celebration to mark the 100th restaurant, but there’s not one for the 75th this week.

“It’s just kind of another day.”

 

Original Timberline Steakhouse & Grill closes after 14 years in business

UPDATED — It was just a matter of time.

Eight months after the east-side Timberline Steakhouse & Grill closed, so has its sister restaurant on the west side.

“It was a very difficult decision that we needed to make,” says Scott Redler, who owned the chain with Bill Simon.

“We’re looking at this as a celebration of 14 great years of business for Timberline . . . and appreciate everyone involved.”

The Timberline near 21st and Tyler was Redler and Simon’s first in the chain, which had seven restaurants in six cities over the years.

There’s one Timberline left.

Salina licensee JRI Investments owns that restaurant and has purchased the concept with plans to open more Timberlines.

“You know, we had an opportunity to sell, and it just seemed to make sense,” Redler says.

He and Simon plan to continue to focus on Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, which they run with Simon’s brother, Randy, who also is a Panera Bread franchisee.

Redler says Freddy’s average ticket of about $6.50 makes a lot more sense than Timberline’s $17 average.

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Construction set to begin on Panera Bread, Olive Garden and Papa Murphy’s at Derby Marketplace

WICHITA — It was back in January that Have You Heard? first reported that Panera Bread franchisee Randy Simon was in negotiations to open a Panera in front of the Dillons Marketplace at Derby Marketplace at 71st and Rock Road.

The Derby City Council approved the deal last week, and construction is set to begin.

Simon plans a fall opening for the restaurant, which will have a drive-through. This is the 32nd cafe for his Original Bread and the first to feature a drive-through.

Later this month, Simon says he plans to finalize a deal in Sedalia, Mo., for another Panera with a drive-through. That’s also where a Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers franchisee plans a Freddy’s next door.

The Panera that opened earlier this year on Ridge Road next to the Freddy’s that Simon co-owns had the highest volume opening of all of Simon’s Wichita Paneras.

Back in Derby, there are a couple of other new restaurants that will open near the new Panera.

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Issa brothers purchase west-side IHOP

WICHITA — The restaurateuring Issa brothers have purchased the IHOP at 515 S. Ridge Circle, just down from the new Panera Bread.

“It’s a good opportunity,” Ali Issa says. “There’s a future in it. They’re very successful.”

Issa and his brothers, Ty and Mike, also will continue to operate Larkspur, Hereford House and Heat Cigar & Hookah Lounge.

At IHOP, they’re making a lot of changes. Some are cosmetic on the interior and exterior. Other changes include retraining the staff “from A to Z,” Ali Issa says.

He says he and his brothers are not looking to buy other IHOPs, at least not yet.

“We’re too busy with that one. It’s too early to talk about the next venture.”