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Sizzling business drives Hermanos expansion

Steak house's second location planned for Osborne Street South

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Restaurateur Noel Bernier says 723 Osborne St. is the ideal space for a Hermanos restaurant because of the Beresford Building’s old-world charm.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Restaurateur Noel Bernier says 723 Osborne St. is the ideal space for a Hermanos restaurant because of the Beresford Building’s old-world charm.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/7/2017 (1056 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hermanos is getting a little sister.

Noel Bernier, one of Winnipeg’s busiest restaurateurs, is opening a second Hermanos restaurant Friday on Osborne Street South.

The 4,000-square-foot, 100-seat eatery at 723 Osborne St. will be a tad smaller than the original Hermanos, which opened in September 2009 on the main floor of the historic Ashdown Warehouse at 179 Bannatyne Ave.

Although it will be officially known as Hermanos South, Bernier has given it the nickname — La Hermanita — which is Spanish for "little sister."

The expansion of the Hermanos brand marks a major shift in focus for Bernier.

For the past eight years, he’s concentrated on introducing new restaurant brands to the city. Now, he and his business partners have shifted their focus to expanding their brands, and it’s only fitting Hermanos would be the first one earmarked for growth.

"Hermanos was my first restaurant. It was my first creation and it has quietly become one of our strongest brands," Bernier said. "It has an incredibly loyal following, and it has had critical success."

Bernier had resisted the temptation to grow the Hermanos brand because it was unique — it’s an South American-style steak house — and because it was his first eatery.

Now that he’s embraced the idea of expanding, he isn’t stopping at just one additional outlet. Within 18 months, he plans to open a third in the city. He doesn’t have a location yet, but it will be in the northern half of Winnipeg.

After that, he plans to expand the brand outside Manitoba, starting with the other western provinces. He said market research has shown there is growing demand in North America for the kind of restaurant experience Hermanos offers.

"Hermanos is a restaurant brand that is focused on a truly unique South American steak house experience, with emphasis on the great wines and music of this continent.

"The opening at 723 Osborne will be the first step in continuing to develop this brand as a potential national brand," he said.

To prepare for the expansion phase, Bernier and his business partners have been enhancing and improving their current brands and hiring additional operational/management staff. Some of the other brands they feel would be good candidates for expansion are Barley Brothers (craft beer pub), Carnaval Brazilian BBQ and Sherbrook Street Deli.

"When you’ve got brands that are strong, you need to help them grow," Bernier said. "But they all need time to be polished up."

He and his partners have a Barley Brothers outlet on Pembina Highway. They had one on Empress Street, but it closed late last year.

Bernier said they’d like to replace that with a downtown outlet, but it’s not a priority.

The second Hermanos outlet will occupy two former ground-floor spaces (723 and 725 Osborne) in the Beresford Building at the corner of Osborne and Beresford Avenue. Previous occupants of the spaces include Bistro 7 1/4 and Blind Tiger Coffee Co.

Bernier said it’s a perfect spot for Hermanos because, like the original location on Bannatyne Avenue, it’s in an old character building that has exposed brick walls on the inside.

"We wanted to keep that historic... old-world feel that (the original) Hermanos has, and this is a very unique piece of property we could do that with," he said.

"It’s got the same vibe... It’s a really beautiful room to showcase the second Hemanos in."

There’s room for a sidewalk patio, although that isn’t expected to open until next summer.

Michael Stronger, senior vice-president of retail and investment with Shindico Realty Inc. has helped Bernier and his partners find many of their restaurant locations in Winnipeg. He agrees the Hermanos concept is suitable for expansion.

"Their opening of a second location is testament to the success of the first location, which has stood the test of time and proven that a larger, high-end restaurant can succeed in Winnipeg’s Exchange District," Stronger said.

"The Exchange has always been a great area for smaller boutique bistros. It’s the larger restaurants that have been challenged, and that’s because they have higher overhead and more seats and require a more consistent and large customer flow."

He said the original Hermanos outlet was able to develop a large and loyal customer base "and that has given (Bernier) the confidence to expand."

Stronger thinks Osborne Street South is a good spot for the second Hermanos outlet because there is already a cluster of successful boutique restaurants in the area.

"(It’s) similar to Corydon Village, to Academy Road and to Osborne Village itself. It has sort of defined itself as having enough of a captive market to support having a variety of unique restaurants."

He thinks it makes sense to open a Hermanos outlet in North Winnipeg, perhaps on Main Street or Henderson Highway.

"There is definitely an affluent and growing consumer base in north Winnipeg that is dramatically underserviced for food offerings," he said.

"He’s probably seeing some of these people (at his downtown location) and they say they wish they didn’t have to travel so far."

Know of any newsworthy or interesting trends or developments in the local office, retail, industrial or multi-family- residential sectors? Let real estate reporter Murray McNeill know at the email address below, or at 204-697-7254.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

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