New Milestones in chain's road to local expansion

Date: APR 28th, 2011

Topic: Franchise News

April 28, 2011 (Edmonton, AB) – Edmonton's healthy appetite for dining out has prompted Canadian restaurant chain Milestones Grill and Bar to add a second location in the west end and to consider a third downtown.


The Vaughan, Ont.-based compformer 7,000-square-foot PartSource automotive products store at 170th Street and 100th Avenue in the fall to complement the city's first location at South Edmonton Common. Construction starts in June with an expected opening in early October.


But Milestones also has its eye on downtown Edmonton, especially if a proposed arena and entertainment district goes ahead.


"We certainly have the downtown on our radar screen," Milestones president Jeff Stipec said.


Milestones likes to have one "trademark" restaurant in a market's core, with the rest in the suburbs.


The company, part of Cara Operations, has hired real estate specialists to find the right downtown site. "Everything I've read on the revitalization is pretty exciting. I know Edmonton is a real hockey and sports town. From my understanding, the goal is to move the team downtown into that core."


Stipec said Milestones has been successful in cities such as Vancouver where it has restaurants near B.C. Place and Rogers Arena.


There's no firm timeline for the company to open downtown. "It's really going to be driven by Edmonton. When the retail space becomes more concrete and when it becomes available, we're certainly at the front of the line."


Milestones plans to open six new restaurants in 2011, with Edmonton getting one and the other five in Ontario. Eventually, he sees three or four more restaurants in Edmonton and a couple more in Calgary.


"In the Edmonton market, people love to dine out," said Milestones Edmonton general manager Iain Dodge. "It's a big culture for people coming out all the time, especially with co-workers and families.


"I don't think you can go wrong here when you see how successful a lot of the restaurants in this market, especially in South Common, are. We're packed on Friday and Saturday nights."


Statistics Canada said last month that Alberta posted the biggest year-over-year increase in December in sales for the food-services and drinking-places industry.


Sales hit more than $580 million, up 8.8 per cent from December 2009.


The upscale casual-dining segment is thronged with competitors such as Earl's, The Keg and Cactus Club, but Stipec said Milestones differs from its rivals in its target market, with promotions and menu aimed at educated, 30-plus women. "We're more female-friendly," Stipec said.


Cara, one of Canada's biggest restaurant companies, also owns Swiss Chalet, Kelsey's Harvey's, Montana's and Coza! Tuscan Grill.


Source: Bill Mah, Edmonton Journal