Boston Pizza drafts smaller stores for smaller markets

One of Canada’s biggest casual restaurant brands is warming up expansion plans for smaller cities and rural communities with the launch of a smaller-store prototype.

Boston Pizza International’s new smaller-scale store design, at about 4,100 square feet, is expected to make it “more affordable than ever to own a Boston Pizza franchise,” the company said in a statement Thursday.

The new store template is an opportunity “perfect for markets that were previously challenging due to market size or real estate availability,” said Ken Otto, the Toronto-based chain’s chief operating officer.

“One of our core pillars is a focus on franchisee profitability. This new prototype delivers against this by offering a reduced size model that is perfect for smaller communities.”

In terms of occupancy, the new space would allow for 140 seats with a 50-seat patio and would include both the “welcoming family restaurant and… lively sports bar” now seen in the chain’s larger outlets.

By comparison, the typical Boston Pizza building currently takes up 6,000-6,500 square feet, with capacity for 180-225 seats plus patio seating for 50-75.

“We believe a multi-channel approach to real estate and development is the best way to expand the Boston Pizza brand and extend our dominance in the casual dining category,” Otto said Thursday.

The company in recent months also made moves to expand its presence beyond the suburban landscape where it’s most often now seen, by developing stores in “prime urban locations” across the country and in “non-traditional” sites such as hotels, sports venues and strip malls.

“We are looking at building on the success of our urban prototype in Toronto in other major markets as well as growing through the opening of new stores in smaller, more rural communities that we haven’t entered yet,” Otto said.

Born out of an Edmonton restaurant, Boston Pizza and Spaghetti House, in 1964, the company — which then included 44 stores — was bought in 1983 by then-franchisee Jim Treliving and partner George Melville, who oversaw its expansions into Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

The chain, which booked gross sales of $853 million in 2010, also began southward expansion in 2000 under the name Boston’s The Gourmet Pizza, now including about 50 U.S. outlets and three in Mexico.

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