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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You don’t say

“But we’re sure looking forward to eating steakburgers for dinner tonight.”

— Restaurateur Randy Simon on how Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers representatives were happy to play in and donate to the Ronald McDonald charity golf tournament today but have plans to eat dinner at their own place instead

Green Zebra Concierge owner Kyle Gerstner to become Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers franchisee

WICHITA — Green Zebra Concierge owner Kyle Gerstner has contemplated becoming a Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers franchisee for years, and now he’s doing it.

“I watched and saw how they grew,” Gerstner says of the business that Scott Redler and brothers Randy and Bill Simon started.

He’s known them for years.

“Just being around those guys and kind of understanding it” led to his decision, Gerstner says.

He’s working on a lease in Colorado Springs. He has a four-store deal there.

“It’s just a great opportunity,” Gerstner says. “We’re kind of already eyeing other markets around the country.”

He’s not likely to open — or leave Wichita — for six months to a year.

Gerstner is in the process of selling his businesses here, which include Green Zebra, which he’s selling off customer by customer, Green Zebra Valet Parking and Nutrition Kitchen.

Once Gerstner establishes himself with Freddy’s, he doesn’t anticipate standing behind the counter taking burger and custard orders much.

He wants to be more entrepreneurial, like Redler and the Simons.

“That’s, obviously, the goal.”

Panera Bread opens near Maple and Ridge

WICHITA — Randy Simon’s fourth Wichita Panera Bread store opened today next to the new Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers near Maple and Ridge.

When Simon opened his first Panera here in 1995 — back when it was still St. Louis Bread Co. — it was the 37th in the chain.

He had four of the chain’s first 40 stores.

“Which is kind of fun to look back and see how long it’s been going on for us,” Simon says.

With his new Panera, he says, “We’re somewhere in the upper 1,400s.

“They’re opening them pretty rapidly these days.”

And they’re doing well.

“It’s one of the two or three systems that seems to be holding up well,” Simon says of surviving tough times.

He’s still working on a Derby Panera at Derby Marketplace.

“We think that one’s going to open yet this year,” Simon says. “We have a few things we’re still trying to get ironed out.”

And for the more distant future, Simon is looking at Wichita’s south side.

He doesn’t like to open too many restaurants at once, though, so restaurant-starved southsiders shouldn’t get too excited just yet.

However, there’s hope.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers to open its 49th store on Thursday

WICHITA — These days when people open new restaurants, they often immediately talk of franchise plans, which rarely seem to materialize.

“We did the opposite,” says Randy Simon, co-owner of Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. “We just wanted to build one store.”

Instead, Thursday he and his partners, his brother Bill and Scott Redler, are opening their 49th store near Maple and Ridge, which is where Randy Simon’s newest Panera Bread will open April 25.

“You know, our intention really was pretty simple,” Randy Simon says. “Just to get us a good hamburger place in Wichita.

“There wasn’t any grand scheme.”

The results are pretty grand, though.

Three more Freddy’s stores will open by the end of the month — the first in California, the third in Denver and one in a Phoenix suburb.

There are likely to be 60-some Freddy’s stores by the end of the year, and about 80 within a year and a half.

On top of it all, the original Freddy’s on 21st Street near Tyler Road had its best day in business on Saturday.

“I am just not sure what all came together in the stars to make that happen,” Simon says. “That store has surprised us at almost every step.”

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Panera most likely coming to Derby Marketplace

UPDATED — The dining options continue to grow in Derby.

Panera Bread franchisee Randy Simon is in negotiations to open a Panera in front of the Dillons Marketplace at Derby Marketplace at 71st and Rock.

“It’s not a lock yet,” Simon says.

It’s close, though.

Simon and his brother, Bill, and business partner Scott Redler have a Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers at Derby Marketplace.

“The Freddy’s has done very well there,” Randy Simon says.

Until now, Simon says the lack of potential daytime business concerned him. Simon always figured nights and weekends would do well, but he says Panera thrives on weekday breakfasts and lunches. He thinks there’s now enough business to support it.

If the deal happens, this would make the 32nd Panera for his Original Bread company, and it will be the first with a drive-through.

Simon wishes he could do the same at his other restaurants.

“I keep trying to figure out how I could do it at the Rock Road location.”

Look for more details as soon as the Derby deal closes.

The possibility of the new Panera pleases one fanatic in particular.

Rev. Wayne Schmid, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, is known to drive to Wichita for Panera four or five times a week, often when he’s making hospital rounds.

Sometimes, though, it’s only for the food.

“Father Schmid’s prayers have finally been answered,” Simon says.

He says Schmid, in an effort to convince him to bring a Panera, said he’d help get the word out.

“He tells me he’ll market (it) from the podium down there,” Simon says.

Schmid admits to his addiction, but he says he’ll have to be discreet about doing anything from the pulpit.

Still, he says, “Oh, I’ll let people know.”

East-side Timberline Steakhouse & Grill has closed after 12 years in business

WICHITA — After a dozen years in business, the east-side Timberline Steakhouse & Grill has closed.

“It’s a tear-jerker,” says Scott Redler, who owned the restaurant with Bill Simon.

The west-side Timberline — the original in the chain, which opened in 1997 — will remain open.

The lease was up at the east restaurant at 8310 E. 21st St.

“It wasn’t worth renewing a lease and continuing,” Redler says.

“We were doing very, very well on the weekend,” he says. On weekdays, though, Redler found that people didn’t want to spend the average ticket price of $16 or $17.

“The reality is when you look at this segment of dining . . . the higher the check average, the more challenging it’s been.”

Redler points to similar restaurants, such as Lone Star Steakhouse, which he says has closed about half its restaurants in the last five years.

Redler says people’s incomes don’t make a difference in what they’re willing to spend for meals these days.

“Everybody watches what they spend more carefully now because of current economic situations,” he says.

That has hurt Timberline but helped Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, which Redler and Simon own with Simon’s brother, Randy.

“What I like to say (is) just because the economy’s bad doesn’t mean people learned how to cook,” Redler says.

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Latest Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and Panera Bread to open in mid-February

WICHITA — Construction is coming along at the Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and Panera Bread at the southeast corner of Ridge Road and University (between Maple and Kellogg) across from Lowe’s.

“We’re skin tight,” says Randy Simon.

That’s what business partner Scott Redler told him Friday, which Simon understands to mean the frame is up along with a layer of insulation, among other developments.

“I’m not much of a construction guy as you can tell.”

Simon says the partners recently purchased another nearby house.

“When we got to looking at it, it just looked like we could stand a little extra parking — we hope. We hope the volume’s good enough that it will warrant it.”

Look for the restaurants to open in mid-February.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and Panera Bread coming to Ridge Road and University

WICHITA — Scott Redler has been searching for additional west-side space for Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers for years.

His business partner, Randy Simon, has been looking for space for a second west-side Panera Bread.

Now, they’ve found what they need in the same spot.

Redler and Simon finalized a deal today to buy land owned by Leisa Lowry to build at the southeast corner of Ridge Road and University (between Maple and Kellogg) across from Lowe’s.

“We were very fortunate to get this location,” Redler says.

Christian Ablah of Classic Real Estate handled the deal.

Simon had a letter of intent with Ablah five years ago for space near there, but it didn’t work out.

“I’ve always had that area as a priority for us,” Simon says.

He and Redler like that the property is in the heart of a residential area with strong businesses nearby, too. Accessibility to Kellogg was key as well.

The almost 4,300-square-foot Panera will share a wall with the 3,200-square-foot Freddy’s.

“It’ll be conjoined at the hip,” Simon says.

Construction will start soon and the restaurants should be ready to open in about 150 days.

The Freddy’s on 21st near Tyler, which opened in 2002, is the original Freddy’s.

“That restaurant is amazing for us,” Redler says, “and just keeps getting busier and busier.”

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