There is good news for fans of P.F. Chang’s. Groupe Sportscene, owners of among other things the very successful Cage Aux Sports franchise, has purchased the two Montreal area locations---one at Rue des Jockeys next to the former Blue Bonnets and the other at Carrefour Laval.
Last April the Canadian operation of P.F. Chang’s, run by Interaction Restaurants and CEO Michael Aronovici, filed a Notice of Intention to make a proposal to creditors in order to obtain the courts` protection so they could gain time to find a strategic partner or a buyer.
The Toronto location in suburban Don Mills has been sold to Cara Foods and will no longer be a P.F. Chang’s. They will convert it into one of their other brands, possibly a Milestones, Montana’s or Kelsey’s.
I spoke to Jean Bedard, the CEO of Sportscene, who was very excited about this new venture. He recently returned from the head office of P.F. Chang’s in Phoenix where he got the go ahead to change the branding and adjust the menu. For starters, it will not be called P.F. Chang’s China Bistro – simply P.F. Chang’s. “We have more Asian cuisine than Chinese,” Bedard said. “The word ‘Chinese’ might make some associate with Chinese buffets. It is not necessary.”
For now Bedard’s goal will be to solidify the two Montreal area locales, which already have a loyal following. “The Cage has been around for 30 years,” he said. “We have resources. I must admit up until recently I did not know P.F. Chang’s was in Montreal. It needs brand recognition. I have always loved the place. When I take my family to Florida, that is the first place we go and eat. I have been to both of our locations. They are well operated and I think by adding them to our existing 200 restaurants will be a bonus.”
In the next week or so both Montreal area locations will be closed for three days in order to prepare for the rejigged menu, which will still have all of the staple favorites like chicken lettuce wraps, Mongolian beef, crispy honey chicken, double pan-fried noodles and more.
Bedard said that once he is satisfied the two Montreal area locales are doing well, he will look towards expansion. He already has his eye on the South Shore, downtown, the West Island, Quebec City and Gatineau. “After that we will look outside of Quebec,” he said.
In terms of continuity, the operating partners of two locations – Emile Haykal and Elie Sucar – will remain in place. That is great news as they know the business well.
As for Aronovici, he should be commended for bringing the storied brand to Canada. “When it becomes evident that you cannot achieve your stated business objectives, the best thing to do is move on.,” he told me. “We had a lot of headwind on this project. The US dollar got much stronger, driving up many of our costs. The price of oil dropped badly hurting the Alberta economy, the economic situation in Montreal is worse than we had expected and the real estate market in Toronto is extremely hot driven by Western based casual dining chains looking to expand and the list goes on. Such is business. On to the next challenge!”