Country Style restaurants have dough problems

That’s left some franchise owners, who invested an average of $150,000 to $200,000, desperate according to Les Stewart, head of the Canadian Alliance of Franchise Operators. On LaSalle Boulevard in Sudbury, Marlene Laframboise is making the best of her former Country Style franchise. Black vinyl covers the Country Style signs, but customers are still coming in. “I haven’t made a deal with the landlord yet, but I’m going to go independent,” she said.

Northern Life magazine
December 19, 2001

Country Style restaurants have dough problems
Walter Franzyk

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Take out has a new meaning for some of Sudbury’s Country Style Donut restaurants. Several of the Nickel City’s eateries have been shut down in the wake of the parent company’s efforts to stave off bankruptcy.

Last week country Style disclosed it would shut down as many as 50 “under-performing” franchises across Canada. That’s left some franchise owners, who invested an average of $150,000 to $200,000, desperate according to Les Stewart, head of the Canadian Alliance of Franchise Operators.

On LaSalle Boulevard in Sudbury, Marlene Laframboise is making the best of her former Country Style franchise. Black vinyl covers the Country Style signs, but customers are still coming in.

“I haven’t made a deal with the landlord yet, but I’m going to go independent,” she said.

Her investment in the original franchise is gone, she said.

“But I have all my own equipment, so I can just keep operating and just de-brand the place, no more Country Style. That’s all,” she said.

Laframboise, who has 10 full-time and part-time employees, has changed the menu a little and plans to offer different food and a variety of lunches, fare that won’t compete with her old franchise.

It’s still not clear to her why the national chain is shutting down so many restaurants.

“I think they’re just trying to get rid of all the stores that don’t make the high sales and then get out of the leases. We don’t really know. They’re just picking on us,” Laframboise said.

The lights were out and no one was inside the Country Style shop on The Kingsway Tuesday morning. Telephones at most of the listed Country Style shops weren’t being answered at lunch time Tuesday.

At the Lorne Street location, however, when the very busy owner was asked why franchises were being shut down, she said, “It’s a long story.”

“Put it this way, we pay the bill. Some of the owners don’t. They fall way behind too much…So you know, if you don’t pay the bill…but there’s more to it than what they say,” she said.

Only two of six Country Style shops were left operating in Sudbury Tuesday afternoon. Phone calls to Country Style’s head office in southern Ontario got nothing but a busy signal.

In a news release, the company says it has received a court order which gives it the flexibility it needs to restructure operations and finances.

Country Style blames its poor financial performance on an increasing number of poor locations and under-performing franchises.

Franchise owners and employees aren’t the only people hurt by the doughnut chains’ problems.

Dan Kottick, owner and operator of Eco Systems, says he’s owed more than $1,700 for waste disposal at Country Style’s Chelmsford location, which closed earlier this fall. He drove to the company’s office in Richmond Hill last week in an attempt to collect the debt but couldn’t get a cheque.

“This is an awful way to treat a small businessman,” he said. “I have no recourse.”


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