Working it Out

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OTTAWA — A plan is in the works to bring one of Ottawa’s favourite burger joints to the rest of Ontario and, if all goes well, eventually the rest of the country.

“The Works is bringing its gourmet burgers to new neighbourhoods across Ontario,” announced Andy O’Brien, president and CEO of the full-service chain that currently has six locations across Ottawa. “We’re proud to offer our fabulous guests, both new and old, the ultimate gourmet burger experience in one of our new urban factory bistros.

O’Brien who, along with Bruce Miller and Sean Bell, took over the franchise from founder, Ion Aimers, last fall, haven’t changed the concept, which includes 68 varieties of chicken, turkey, veggie, beef or elk burgers in a family-oriented, industrially designed space with community spirit. “We didn’t come in here to change it, it was to bring it to more [people],” explained O’Brien during a media announcement and luncheon at Ottawa’s Westboro Neighbourhood location. “I’m the agent of non-change.”

More than 200 applications have been received from potential franchisees, but the key to expansion is finding the right person to fit the concept, which has an average footprint of 2,500 square feet and requires a financial commitment of $300,000 of unencumbered capital. But, it’s about more than the money,O’Brien pointed out as media chowed down on burgers — topped with ingredients as diverse as peanut butter, Kraft dinner and sauerkraut. Instead, the management team is looking for potential candidates who fit the brand culture, have experience in the industry, know the brand’s food intimately and, finally, have the financial wherewithal.

London, Ont., will mark the home of the first Works Gourmet Burger Bistro outside of Ottawa in May, with plans to open in Kingston, Ont., Guelph, Ont., Oakville, Ont., and Barrhaven, Ont., this spring and summer. “There’s lots of sites, we just have to find the right partners,” says O’Brien.

Six to seven openings are planned for this year, 10 for 2012. Until then, the company is busy planning the London opening, which will include the re-naming of 11 burgers that are currently personalized to each Ottawa site.

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