Despite feeding upwards of 4,000 mouths a month, The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro (5431 Doyle Street) announced yesterday that its grills were off for good.
“We were forced to close due to a lack of support by the brand,” says Alan Garner, who managed first Atlantic Canadian location of the Canadian franchise alongside his wife Jody. “We brought the brand national and they, for the most part, left us alone.”
Garner says he and Jody didn’t receive the assistance they needed from The Works' head office in Ontario when it came to design and construction issues as well as advertising. "The burger is amazing, it's an amazing concept, it's great food that's all fresh...but there was no sense of urgency, no leadership, no marketing," says Garner. He got the final word of his restaurant's fate on Friday. “We offered the company to take over for us and keep the restaurant open, and they said no.”
The Garners gathered their staff together yesterday to break the news, deliver pay cheques and have one last meal together. “The way we exited yesterday was as graceful as we possibly could," says Garner. "It was a hardworking team and we were supported by them. We always said they worked with us, not for us."
The Works first opened on February 22, making yesterday its eight month anniversary.
Updated Friday, October 25
The plot thickened yesterday when The Coast received the following statement from The Works' head office.
The WORKS, the full-service gourmet burger bistro chain, learned at the same time as its guests yesterday of the closing of its franchised-operated location in Halifax.
“We were extremely surprised to learn about the closing of our Halifax location,” said Andy O'Brien, president and CEO of The WORKS. “We love the Halifax market and wholeheartedly want to continue feeding Haligonians. The decision to close was not ours and we want our guests to know that it’s our intention to reopen for business as soon as possible with our great local Halifax team.”
The WORKS Halifax, located at 5431 Doyle Street, opened earlier this year and had gained popularity, reaching very respectable sales figures and a loyal customer base.
The company is devoting its full attention to this sudden closing.
The Garners were just as surprised to hear of this response from head office, reiterating that the choice to close wasn't rash on their part.
"We had been asking for assistance for months in the form of marketing of the brand and construction repairs to offset the high operating costs. In the last few weeks of operations we advised that our priority was our guests and our employees," said the Garners via email. "The only way they would help was if we signed away our legal recourse to hold them accountable for their construction blunders. We then offered them the store at a price that was over a quarter million less (than our personal investment) if they would keep the store open and rescue our 30 staff/family from unemployment."
After giving the company one week to respond, the Garners say O'Brien called last Friday night too reject the offer.
"Our sales were well below brand average here in Halifax, and there are several other stores WELL below us. The Works reported that average sales are $1,575,000. We were on track to make less than a million," said the Garners. "For months we personally funded the restaurant to keep us afloat....We made the business decision to close as we quite simply couldn't afford to continue to fund a brand that wouldn't help fund itself."
Updated Sunday, October 27
And it looks like The Works' head office has officially re-opened the restaurant. A release states that the restaurant is operating with its existing local staff.