Another Perkins restaurant has closed in Winnipeg — the third in less than a year — and while the owner continues to operate four other locations in the city, he may be getting forced to face up to the changing demographics of the city.
The Perkins on Henderson Highway closed suddenly this past weekend, giving no notice to staff or the landlord. Last fall, two other locations — one on Kenaston Boulevard and one on Fermor Avenue — also shut down suddenly.
The owner of those three as well as the four remaining Winnipeg Perkins locations, Chris Manderscheid, said the closure of the Henderson Highway store location was a case of attrition as much as anything.
"Over the course of 30 years that the location has been there... they get tired, they get stale, you start to see business drop off and you need to make a business decision, so we opted to close them," Manderscheid said.
The Calgary-based businessman, who is the former president of Smitty’s Canada, was unapologetic about the back rent he owes or about the fact that employees did not get proper notice.
He said many employees from the recently closed location will be offered positions at other locations when new scheduling issues are figured out and he said the rest will be provided severance. As for the back rent, he said he had been in discussion with the landlord.
But that’s not necessarily the same way the landlord sees the situation.
The building is owned by a limited partnership organized by Ted Paetkau, founder of Concord Projects, whose offices are next door to the closed Perkins.
"We had heard nothing from Chris," Paetkau said. "He was supposed to have a certified cheque here. He is obviously behind in rent. They didn’t show up yesterday (Tuesday)... we can only assume that he is abandoning the premises."
Although the landlord did not receive any official warning, apparently the lack of business at the location was apparent to the casual observer.
"The writing was on the wall for some time," Paetkau said. "We are not totally surprised by this."
Brenda Andre, who sold nine Perkins locations to Manderscheid (including stores in Calgary and Kelowna) nine years ago, is saddened by the loss of jobs and the negative fortunes of the business she used to run.
"The reason I sold to him was because I thought he would be able to do the best job... he was the president of Smitty’s," she said.
"There’s no way those restaurants should be failing."
But there are some who believe that the closure of three Perkins locations may be a sign of the changing demographics of the city and an indication that some restaurants really do need to change with the times.
Shaun Jeffrey, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant Association (Perkins is not a member of the association), said consumers are different than they were 15 or 20 years ago.
"They are looking for different things," he said. "It is a changing environment. There is a big push on plant-based product, local fare, craft beer... You just can’t roll with the same menu you had 15 years ago. You have to be continually upgrading, continuously innovating."
Although it can be an expensive proposition, he said the successful restaurants are the ones that take it upon themselves to reinvent themselves and update and move along with the market.
"Lots of restaurants don’t use social media, don’t use market research and don’t take advantage of those tools to get their message out and use it for feedback," he said.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Thursday, July 4, 2019 at 6:22 AM CDT: Adds photos