AMHERST, N.S. – After 20 years in one location, Frank & Gino’s first trip out of Truro has landed them in Amherst.
“We started a year or two ago looking for a second location, scouting real estate, and the Connors Restaurant building came up,” said Don Moore, president of Grinners Food Systems Limited, which owns and operates Frank & Gino’s Grill & Pasta House, along with franchising two restaurant chains, Greco Pizza and Captain Submarine. “It was really attractive to us because, although our interior is going to be completely different, the layout itself was pretty similar. It has a dining room on each side with a kitchen in the middle, which is how we’re set up in Truro.”
Name recognition played a role in choosing Amherst as well.
“I think the majority of people in Amherst will probably recognize our name,” said Moore, who was also one of the founders of Frank & Gino’s when it opened in 1999 in Truro.
Renovations to the new restaurant began early this year, and it’s tentatively scheduled to open April 23.
“We’re not looking to blow the doors off the first day. We would rather open up slow and open up steady,” said Moore. “We plan on being in the community for the next 50 years, so we want to give good service right from the start and give people exactly what they expect from Frank & Gino’s high level of quality.”
Good service means good staff, and Frank & Gino’s started hiring staff for their Amherst location about three weeks ago.
“We’re looking at hiring between 32 and 40 employees, depending on the mixture of full-time and part-time people who are available,” said Moore. “Also, when we go into a community we hire from that community because we believe in supporting the community.”
The Amherst location will be smaller than the Truro location.
“We’re going from 170 seats in Truro, to this restaurant, which has 105 seats, so it will be a slightly scaled down version, but 90 per cent of all the great menu items we have in Truro will be available in Amherst.”
Like in Truro, the menu will focus on grilled food and pasta.
“We have two distinctly different concepts within our concept, and that would be a grill house and a pasta house,” said Moore. “Our grill menu is steaks, ribs and burgers, and then we have a real, authentic, old-world Italian pasta house as well.”
Most of their recipes are homemade.
“The way that we prepare food is the old-style way of preparing food in a grill and pasta house, and I think that’s what separates us from some of the bigger franchises,” said Moore. “Many of our Italian sauces are homemade and our burgers don’t come out of a box, they’re made with fresh beef.”
The interior of the Amherst location will be similar to the Truro location as well.
“The inside will have the exact same feel and look as the Frank & Gino’s in Truro, except a lot of the pieces will have a local, Amherst background to them,” said Moore. “We always try to fill the restaurant with interesting things, some old artifacts, some local artifacts, and some just plain amusing artifacts.”
Customers at the Frank & Gino’s in Truro come from far and wide.
“We attract 40 per cent of our customers from outside Truro, and we kind of expect we’ll have the same demographic within Amherst.”
They will also help local charitable organizations.
“We’re going to have a Share and Care Booth in our restaurant, which means that five percent of total sales made at that booth will go to a local charity in Amherst,” said Moore.
“Also, with the onion blossom, which is one of our trademark menu items, we’ll donate a dollar to the food bank for every one sold in the beginning,” added Moore. “You’ll see several of those over the months and years to come. As a corporate citizen we believe in giving back to the communities that are supporting us.”
Amherst is Frank & Gino’s first stop on their venture outside of Truro but Moore hopes it’s the beginning of a greater journey.
“My plans with this concept is to take it throughout Atlantic Canada,” said Moore. “I think that we have a very unique restaurant where the food is made fresh in an old-world way that can succeed in the Atlantic Canadian market.”