Oppy’s Diner ex­per­i­ment founders

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS THE COM­PASS

An am­bi­tious busi­ness ven­ture that was sup­posed to change the din­ing land­scape of many re­gions through­out the province ap­pears to have stalled.

Re­nee Mar­quis, owner of Mar­quis Lim­ited in St. John’s, an­nounced with great fan­fare in July 2012 that she would not be re­new­ing her fran­chise agree­ment to op­er­ate 10 KFC restau­rants in the province.

In­stead, Mar­quis re­vealed she would es­tab­lish a chain of new fam­ily restau­rants called Oppy’s Diner at each of the lo­ca­tions, which in­cluded Car­bon­ear, Bay Roberts, Clarenville, Marys­town, Gan­der, Grand Falls-Wind­sor, Lewis­porte, Deer Lake, Cor­ner Brook and Stephenville.

The de­ci­sion raised more than a few eye­brows, since the Mar­quis fam­ily had been as­so­ci­ated with the ubiq­ui­tous Ken­tucky Fried Chicken brand since the 1960s. In­deed, only weeks af­ter the de­ci­sion, a New Brunswick com­pany called Fran­chise Man­age­ment Inc. (FMI) swooped in and an­nounced it would open KFC lo­ca­tions in the same com­mu­ni­ties va­cated by Mar­quis.

Now, less than a year later, and af­ter what ap­pears to be a very sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment of time and money, the Oppy’s Diner ex­per­i­ment ap­pears to have largely col­lapsed.

The din­ers in Car­bon­ear and Bay Roberts, for ex­am­ple, closed per­ma­nently last month.

Gan­der diner open

At­tempts to es­tab­lish an Oppy’s Diner in Cor­ner Brook also made head­lines late last year when em­ploy­ees showed up for work one morn­ing to dis­cover se­cu­rity chains across the en­trance.

And a diner in Stephenville has also closed its doors.

Up to late last week, the only Oppy’s Diner still in op­er­a­tion was in Gan­der.

In con­trast, FMI is mak­ing plans to re-es­tab­lish KFC at the same premises on Con­cep­tion Bay High­way in Bay Roberts. In Car­bon­ear, FMI is build­ing a new stan­dalone KFC restau­rant on Colum­bus Drive, and a grand open­ing is only weeks away.

Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, FMI owns and op­er­ate more than 180 Pizza Hut, KFC, Sub­way and Taco Bell restau­rants in On­tario, Man­i­toba, New Brunswick, Nova Sco­tia, Illi­nois and In­di­ana, em­ploy­ing over 3,000 peo­ple.

Mean­while, based on opin­ions gath­ered by The Com­pass, cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences at Oppy’s Diner lo­ca­tions in Con­cep­tion Bay North were mixed, though most had neg­a­tive com­ments.

It was rare to see any sig­nif­i­cant traf­fic at the din­ers, some ob­servers stated, and the con­cept be­ing touted by Mar­quis did not catch on, de­spite an ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing cam­paign.

One cus­tomer at the diner in Bay Roberts wrote the fol­low­ing in email to The Com­pass:

“We as a fam­ily were very dis­pleased with their ser­vice, or lack thereof. We were there an hour and still hadn’t been served. So, what did we do? We walked out! The serv­ing Mis­sus said, “Did you en­joy your meal?” I said, “My duckie, we haven’t been served yet!”

Bay Roberts Mayor Phil Wood, how­ever, had a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.

Af­ter hear­ing largely neg­a­tive com­ments, he de­cided to give Oppy’s Diner a try.

“I found it really good. The ser­vice was good. The food was good and the price was rea­son­able,” Wood said.

One well-known restau­ra­teur in Con­cep­tion Bay North said re­cently that a food es­tab­lish­ment that did not spe­cial­ize in ei­ther Chi­nese food or “chicken and chips” was un­likely to suc­ceed in the area.

Re­peated at­tempts to reach Re­nee Mar­quis in re­cent weeks have been un­suc­cess­ful.

At one point, Mar­quis joked dur­ing an in­ter­view that FMI was ac­tively “poach­ing” her em­ploy­ees.

ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Photo by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

Oppy’s Diner restau­rants in Bay Roberts (pic­tured here) and Car­bon­ear closed per­ma­nently last month.

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