The option to eat at a “family-style” restaurant will soon be available to those dining in town.
The old Pizza Hut building on King's Highway is being converted into the “Neighbours Modern Diner” and is set to officially open its doors in June.
Fort France native, Jamie Pryde, and partner Myles Wilcott of Pine Falls, Man. took over the building in February and are currently working on renovations.
The owners returned to Fort Frances late last year to operate the Bayview Motel and noticed there weren't many choices for going out to eat.
“There are definitely some good options, it's just there's not a wide variety; so we would go across the border or cook at home,” Wilcott explained.
“We just thought there was a bit of a gap for additional options and when we saw this building was sitting empty we had to check into it,” he added.
The restaurant will be fully licensed and offer home cooked comfort food in more of a modern diner-style setting.
“It will be a very nice atmosphere, very professional, well-branded,” Wilcott said.
They hope to offer as much handmade and locally sourced options as possible on their menu.
“Finding local food suppliers is very important because there's a lot of producers in the community that we'd like to utilize and approach as we develop the menu,” Pryde noted.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be offered with the restaurant opening at 6 a.m. and closing around 10 p.m. each day.
“We'll have a full range on our menu offered and the restaurant will transition very well from breakfast to dinner,” said Pryde.
“Like you could take a date at night and it will be lower lighting, comfortable, nice music, nothing fancy, but still a bit refined.”
Wilcott, meanwhile, said the restaurant will provide value for those dining on a budget.
“The price points will be very affordable," he said. "You could come even once or twice a week and not feel like your breaking the bank.”
Wilcott said because the restaurant is very approachable and affordable it will be a great spot for serving sports teams and families.
A modern feature of the restaurant is the customer's ability to order from their tables using iPad systems.
The owners also said they will maintain their pickup window for high schoolers and create an app on the Apple Store so they can easily pre-order their lunch and pick it up.
Similar to the Bayview Motel, an area of focus for the restaurant's owners is creating the least amount of waste possible.
They will be utilizing biodegradable take out containers, reusable sauce containers, and biodegradable straws that have no taste.
Wilcott said that since there is potential to run a large operation with the number of seats they have available, he hopes to hire individuals with special needs to help around the restaurant.
“We'd like to partner with some agencies on that," he remarked. "To see if there's people that are relatively capable and need a fairly narrowly-defined job.”
“Maybe they want to come in for a few hours a day and just help out in the kitchen or that sort of thing,” Wilcott added.
In terms of the facility itself, he said it is “mostly turnkey,” and they will just be doing some upgrades and branding in the coming weeks.
“The bones of the structure are very good," he remarked. "We're just going to be refreshing the interior and it will take on more of a friendly, family vibe.”
For cosmetic changes, the interior is being fully painted, seats are being re-covered, new tables will be setup, and there will be brand new lighting throughout the dining area.
“We're going to have new opportunities for like being able to show hockey games and things like that in certain sections of the restaurant,” Wilcott noted.
Another important feature of the diner is that there won't be any pre-packaged, quick prepared foods like you see at chain restaruants and a majority of the menu items will be made in house.
Some of the selling points for Wilcott and Pryde that made them want to take on this business venture was the restaurant's location, it's 120 seats for revenue potential, and ability to add on to the facility down the line.
“We're looking at a patio concept as soon as possible,” Pryde noted.
A factor that also pushed the owners towards the property was the “overwhelmingly positive support” they received from the community since taking over the Bayview Motel.
“When we were looking at doing this it was kind of a no-brainer because we love being here and we love doing things that enhance the community,” Pryde remarked.
“I think that we're bringing more value to this community by giving another option that isn't here.”
The owners have already hired a head chef and general manager who will be working to finalize the menu in the coming weeks.
Closer to when the restaurant opens, Wilcott said they will begin hiring line cooks, servers, and other restaurant staff.
“We have our main solid team together, so we just need to fill in the gaps,” Pryde noted.
Jobs at the restaurant will be posted to www.neighboursdiner.com as they arise.
A grand opening is being planned and information about the specifics are forthcoming.