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Scott Castle: Bleeding Green in Elgin, Illinois

ScottCastle has always felt there was great synergy in owning a Bennigan’srestaurant alongside the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites in Elgin, Illinois. Thetwo literally feed off each other.

Butover time, both the hotel and the restaurant began to show their age. He and hoteloperator Hratch Basmadjian agreed it was time to invest in a renovation. Littledid they know they were embarking on what they’d later refer to as “a huge successstory.”

“Therestaurant was getting quite old, so we spent a great deal of time and money onthe remodeling work,” said Castle. “Elgin has a very competitive dining market,so we knew we needed to do it right. It was also important for our Bennigan’sto have its own identity – including an outside entrance and signage – and notsimply be known as a ‘hotel restaurant.’”

Outwent the old, dated décor, replaced with a sleek, contemporary look, featuringa large, welcoming bar area, several flat-screen televisions, upgraded booths,a large VIP seating area and even a new outdoor patio. When it was complete,the new-look Bennigan’s was so attractive, CEO Paul Mangiamele sang itspraises.

“TheElgin team did an extraordinary job on executing our remodeling initiative,taking one of the chain’s oldest locations and making it look brand new again,”said Mangiamele. “More important, their sales jumped immediately and have beengrowing strong ever since.”

Followingthe 2011 renovation, the Elgin Bennigan’s increased its capture rate (businessfrom the Holiday Inn’s overnight guests) to a whopping 40-45 percent, from 15percent pre-renovation. Year-over-year revenues jumped 31 percent in 2012 andmore than 20 percent in 2013. It’s on pace for another 15 percent bump in 2014.

TheElgin team gives additional credit to the support received from Bennigan’scorporate, including world-class training programs, the brand’s new menu andbeverage program, St. Paddy’s Day promotional campaigns and more.

“Ourguests absolutely love our new menu, which has generated just as manycompliments as the remodeling work we’ve done,” said Castle. “We made aconscious decision to run this franchise by the book, and to make theinvestments that Paul and his team have been recommending. The results speakfor themselves.”

Inaddition to its attractive new space, Castle initiated a proactive marketingoutreach to local businesses, food sample deliveries to secretaries andneighbors in a five-mile radius, and a thriving banquet and catering business.

“Weare blessed with a large restaurant and two fullkitchens, so we take advantage of them by hosting lots of special events, suchas baby showers, sports team banquets and other large and small gatherings,” heexplained. “In addition, the hotel hosts weddings, reunions and other largeevents on a regular basis, and our catering menu is a big hit. Bennigan’s alsohandles the hotel’s room service orders, so again, we profit from the synergybetween the properties.”

Castlehas encouraged his fellow Bennigan’s franchisees to invest in a remodelinginitiative as soon as they sense that it is needed.

“Myonly regret is that we didn’t do it sooner,” Castle said. “It was the smartestbusiness decision I’ve made since I purchased the franchise in the firstplace.”


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