Vancouver's Fuller Family is readying to launch in June a new restaurant banner: Birdies Eats & Drinks, with a first location in Burnaby.
Its plan is to soon close its 26-year-old Earls Kitchen + Bar location at 3850 Lougheed Highway in Burnaby, do extensive renovations and reopen the site as its first Birdies restaurant, Earls CEO Stan Fuller told BIV.
The chain will also open in mid-February a new Earls location at the nearby upscale Brentwood Town Centre, which is in the fast-developing, 28-acre neighbourhood that calls itself the Amazing Brentwood.
Birdies will be the first new store banner for the Fullers in years. Fuller said future Birdies restaurant openings will depend on how successful the Burnaby location turns out to be.
"The customer is king," he said.
The successful family is known for founding and growing what is now the 68-location Earls Kitchen + Bar restaurant chain as well as the 31-location Joey Restaurants chain.
It was an early investor in Cactus Club, in part because Cactus Club's co-founders Richard Jaffray and Scott Morison started their careers working at Earls. Last February, the family bought out other shareholders in Cactus Club to take their stake in the company to 100 per cent, up from 65 per cent. Cactus Club has 31 locations including one that opened last week at the Coquitlam Centre shopping mall.
The family also owns two Saltlik steakhouses, and has other investments.
Birdies is expected to have a casual, drink-forward California-style theme with menu items that include burgers and nachos.
"We wanted to move the Earls into the mall," Fuller said before gushing about how much he likes the new Brentwood Town Centre.
"It's not just us. All the casual diners and fast food [companies,] and everyone has gone out of their way to do something that is better in class. Our store there is really done up well."
Fuller said he did not want to have two Earls locations so close to each other, so that opened up the idea to renovate the 3850 Lougheed Highway location and add a new restaurant banner.
"We when we renovate restaurants, we spent a lot of money," he said.
That will be the case at the old Lougheed Highway site, and it is also the case at Brentwood Town Centre, where Earls snagged a prime location visible to those who arrive by SkyTrain, Fuller said.
"We've been working very hard at upgrading everything [related to] Earls," he said.
He estimated that the new Earls at Brentwood mall would be around 7,200 square feet, which is slightly larger than the old Earls on Lougheed Highway.
The way the family structures its businesses is to have different family members have larger financial stakes in different restaurant chains in which they have more say. That is why Stan Fuller is CEO at Earls, and his brother Jeff Fuller is CEO at Joey Restaurants. Stan Fuller said each of them, however, report to a board of directors that includes family as well as three outside directors:
•former Lululemon Athletica Inc. CFO John Currie
•retired Cactus Club executive Jim Stewart
•former Wesbild president Randy Zien
Family members on the board include brothers Stan Fuller, Jeff Fuller, Stewart Fuller and a person who Stan said he did not want to identify, who is representing his brother Clay Fuller.