MR MIKES Franchisee, Benjamin Giesbrecht
Benjamin Giesbrecht is starting a new challenge.
Giesbrecht is the franchisee of Peace River’s Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual.
Located at 8006, 99 Avenue on Peace River’s west hill, the restaurant is in the same building that used to be Rivers Bar and Grill, which Giesbrecht owned and operated.
Giesbrecht has spent the last decade in Peace River, he originally grew up in High Level.
Rivers which closed its doors in July 2015, originally was The Moon Saloon which closed down in 2007.
“After high school, I worked on a service rig for 7-8 years and heard that this place was for sale when it was the Moon Saloon and actually my brothers and I purchased it in the beginning together and then over time, they got bought out and I was left here,” explained Giesbrecht, explaining the history of Rivers and its ultimate closure.
“Then, probably a year-and-a-half ago to two years, was when we decided to look at franchising. It was actually my mom (Annie), who I was talking to, and she was retired – she had own businesses in High Level and retired. She asked me if I wanted to partner because she didn’t like retirement. I said ‘absolutely’ and we started doing a franchise. It took quite awhile.”
Giesbrecht, said he opted to franchise because it was time for a change, his parents were entrepreneurs as well.
“My son started Grade 1 this year, so with the bar, you work all evenings into late in the mornings and it didn’t really work with the schedule any more,” he said.
“I thought with a franchise, it would be more of a change and I absolutely really like the idea with franchising and having a focus-directed brand, etc. And, then I probably started looking at four or five different franchises in the beginning. It was Mr. Mikes actually, who I thought was the most professional with their response.”
Giesbrecht flew out to Vancouver to meet with Mr. Mikes’ front office staff, after spending lots of time and effort researching what franchise suited his vision best.
“I had the best feeling with them right out of the gate,” he said.
Though, it was more than just their professionalism that caught his attention.
Giesbrecht said he feels the Mr. Mikes brand fits for a small, northern Alberta community like Peace River.
“I looked at the menu and I thought ‘we’re northern Alberta’ and I felt like the (Mr. Mikes) menu and the drinks and everything about that part of the brand really fit with Peace River,” he explained.
“Mr. Mikes definitely focuses on what’s in trend, but their core menu is about steaks and burgers. Like, they have the Mr. Mikes burger which has been there since the 1960’s (and) the idea of serving good steaks has been there since the ‘60s. I felt that would fit better with the community and be more of a sustainable business model.”
Giesbrecht also noted that the interior fits with the community, its a “cozy lodge feel”.
“I think that fits well for Peace River. We have the ski hill and we kind of have the northern feel and I think the natural elements in the building fit with that.”
In July, after Rivers closed, Giesbrecht was involved in every step of the process to transition from a bar and night club to an all-ages restaurant.
Between Nov. 30- Dec. 2, the restaurant did a soft opening, before officially opening on Dec. 3.
“If they’re existing customers, I think they’ll be simply shocked in the transformation of the building and the transformation of what we’ve done in here. What they can expect is good food and good service,” noted Giesbrecht.
“That’s one thing I liked about Mr. Mikes after getting their franchise information is their focus on training. We have a training team here for a month. There’s 13 people from various Mr. Mikes locations for a month training of our staff.”
The restaurant has a private function room upstairs, and seats about 240 people throughout.
Giesbrecht added they’re “always” hiring.