Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich boosts Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers opening with last meal on the outside

UPDATED — The Chick-fil-A opening at Central and Rock may be huge news here today, but the new Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers in Littleton, Colo., has unintentionally pulled off the best opening-week publicity stunt.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich ate his final meal there before heading for a 14-year prison stay following corruption convictions. Federal Correctional Institution Englewood is a couple of miles from Freddy’s.

“I’m not sure if he had a Chicago dog,” says Freddy’s partner Scott Redler. “That’s the big question.”

Actually, Blagojevich had the patty melt.

There was something of an impromptu press conference with Blagojevich as reporters gathered around him as he dined. Redler says helicopters circled overhead.

It’s not clear if media ate, too.

A number of national media outlets reported where Blagojevich ate or shot pictures of him at the restaurant.

“I hope he has the logo on his Freddy’s cup facing out,” Redler says.

Even Redler is a bit surprised that of all the restaurants where Blagojevich could eat his final meal on the outside, he chose Freddy’s, though he thinks it’s a great testimonial.

It might lead to a new strategy for the Wichita-based chain.

“We think prisons are really our new target market,” Redler says, joking. “Have a last meal at Freddy’s.”

 

 

 

 

You don’t say

“I told them I’d do it a second time and pocket the cash.”

Freddy’s co-owner Scott Redler, joking about his offer of dinner for eight that raised $3,750 at the Butler Community College auction Friday (which raised more than $165,000)

You don’t say

“In the winter time when it’s cold and windy, I prefer the restaurant openings in Phoenix, Arizona, versus Monument, Colorado.”

Scott Redler on two of the places he’s recently opened a Freddys Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association names new president and CEO

UPDATED — Adam Mills is the new president and CEO of the Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association.

Mills has been serving in that position on an interim basis since Don Sayler resigned in August after five years leading the group.

“As interim director, Adam did just an incredible job with starting to move the organization forward,” says Scott Redler, the association’s chairman.

The association, which was founded in 1929, represents the hospitality industry. That includes restaurants, private clubs, hotels and motels.

Redler says the group wanted to take its time in finding a new leader and do an exhaustive search, but he says the right pick was there all along.

“We’ve just been very pleased with his guidance.”

Mills has been the association’s vice president of member services since August 2003 and has led the effort to grow members and also managed their insurance programs.

Before joining the association, Mills owned his own insurance agency in Derby.

“He understands the member benefits that are critical,” Redler says. “It’s a great move.”

Sayler previously said he resigned because of professional and family health reasons.

“I’ve enjoyed association management and the hospitality industry, but the time involved and the stress is high.”

 

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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You don’t say

“Freddy’s is immune because people haven’t learned how to cook just because the economy is bad.”

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers co-owner Scott Redler, speaking to the Rotary Club of Wichita on Monday about how his restaurant is doing well even though the economy isn’t

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.”

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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