Peel Pub eyeing big expansion

"By this fall, I hope to have franchise agreements for three restaurants in both Ontario and Quebec," Mr. Weshler says. "And for sure, there will be more units in and around Montreal. My hope is that the franchisee will have his investment paid off in one year."

The Globe and Mail
November 20, 2001

Peel Pub eyeing big expansion
The value-oriented restaurant chain is looking to add up to 10 franchises in Quebec, Ontario
Danny Gallagher

TORONTO — Frank Weshler admits a number of doomsayers questioned his motives in setting up a bar/restaurant in Toronto's theatre district on King Street West. Some even perceived the Peel Pub to be a strip bar, of all things.

"It took more than $1-million to restore the building, but I'm happy I stuck to my guns," Mr. Weshler says. "Some people asked, 'What are you doing? You're crazy.' These people didn't know what Peel Pub was all about. A lot of people wouldn't deal with me because I was coming off the wall. They thought it was a strip club."

But Mr. Weshler has had the last laugh. Business is booming and he's looking to expand. The 430-seat Peel Pub, which has its origins in Montreal where a thriving sister bar has existed since 1962, is packed for lunch and dinner and many junctures in between. There are lineups outside each week as young and old — from bus drivers to Bay Street brokers to students — gather for fun times while watching the umpteen television screens.

Mr. Weshler, 48, first looked at Toronto's growing restaurant scene located west of the intersection of University and Front streets, but says he always had his eyes on the theatre district, calling it an "ideal location."

Department store owner and theatre impresario Ed Mirvish, who owns much of the property in the district, eventually found himself with a vacancy, and Mr. Weshler entered the picture.

"Ed and I began horse trading and we finally agreed that everything was solid [on the property]. He's a wonderful human being, a man of vision and foresight. A few years from now, I hope people will say that about me."

The Peel Pub has stormed to success because of its traditions: inexpensive, home-style food accentuated by generous portions combined with expectations of satisfactory service.

"Nobody walks away hungry," Mr. Weshler says. "If you give them too much, that's okay. If you give them too little, they go out hungry and they won't come back. My portions fill everyone up. You get great value for the dollar."

With his Toronto operation fast becoming a gold-mine business like the one established by his auctioneer father Ben in Montreal almost 40 years ago, Mr. Weshler is expanding by granting franchises throughout Ontario and Quebec.

Mr. Weshler recently stepped down from day-to-day operations of his restaurant to concentrate solely on researching locations and negotiating franchise agreements with potential operators. Two of his daughters will run the three-year-old Toronto eatery while he goes about shifting Peel Pub Holdings Inc. in a new direction. Mr. Weshler wants to expand at the "very minimum" by another 10 restaurants by 2002, with five each in Ontario and Quebec. The cost of acquiring a ready-to-run operation, he says, will run between $300,000 and $600,000, depending on the location. Each franchise, Mr. Weshler estimates, will bring in between $3-million and $6-million in annual revenue.

"We'll grow like wildfire in the next 10 years," he says. "I'm pushing for the family owner/operator to run the franchises as opposed to corporations because the business requires someone who is going to give it a lot of attention. It's important for a responsible operator to be on site all the time."

The third Peel Pub location opened last November directly in front of the University of Guelph. That franchise is operated by Prime Restaurants Ltd., which runs about 140 eateries across Canada under such banners as Casey's, East Side Mario's and the Red Devil.

Compared to his mammoth Toronto and Montreal restaurants, the new venues will feature decidedly smaller real-estate components, thus making it easier for franchisees to make a go of it. The sprawling Toronto restaurant boasts 12,000 square feet, while the Montreal operation has 9,000 square feet (seating 342), but Mr. Weshler says the size of any new franchise will be between 3,500 and 7,500 square feet. The Guelph pub has 5,500 square feet.

"By this fall, I hope to have franchise agreements for three restaurants in both Ontario and Quebec," Mr. Weshler says. "And for sure, there will be more units in and around Montreal. My hope is that the franchisee will have his investment paid off in one year."


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