The first MR MIKES restaurant opened on Granville St. in Vancouver in the 1960s and the franchise with its unique casual dining experience continues to grow. Today, after 50-plus years in business, the company that began from humble beginnings now commands 24 franchised restaurants in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and its new strategy in the market for memorable experiences makes headway across western Canada.
MR MIKES saw a surge of new energy when the franchise was taken on by RAMMP Hospitality Brands Inc., who re-envisioned and revamped the brand, reaffirming its casual dining positioning while maintaining the quality of the food and experience, creating an entirely new steakhouse category that is exclusive to MR MIKES. MR MIKES calls its new dining category “SteakhouseCasual”, creating a feeling of belonging for patrons, while remaining comfortable and casual. MR MIKES creates a place for people to be themselves, socialize with their friends over tasty and affordable dining creations (including MR MIKES signature steak and Mikeburgers), making memories over a good laugh and a nice glass of wine or a pitcher of cold beer.
RAMMP Hospitality Brands Inc. acquired the brand in 2010 at a time when MR MIKES was looking for a change in leadership, and RAMMP saw the potential that any customer of MR MIKES knew existed. MR MIKES has a long and successful history in western Canada, and in fact the brand rose to nearly 90 stores in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, that concept and brand fell onto difficult times, and the number of locations dipped below 10. But the core customer base and support remained, because those loyal patrons love what MR MIKES represents – a casual place where people can be themselves and enjoy a great steak, and Mikeburger.
“There is so much to love and to be excited about in regard to this brand, says Robin Chakrabarti, one of the founding partners of RAMMP Hospitality Brands Inc. “We got really excited about the unrealized potential behind the brand.”
MR MIKES was brought “back to the future” by abandoning the direction towards the upscale steakhouse dining, returning to its casual roots, with the existing franchisees completely supporting this change that has revitalized the brand and marketplace for MR MIKES.
“We did thorough market customer research on the front lines; we talked to the customers, and found out what the customers liked and didn’t like, not just about MR MIKES but also what they liked in their overall dining experiences,” Chakrabarti continues. “This helped us to change the vision from the original ‘MR MIKES Steakhouse and Bar’ to ‘MR MIKES SteakhouseCasual’. This tells our customers that we are not your traditional steakhouse and bar.”
The traditional “steakhouse and bar” experience often spins around white tablecloths, expensive wine, overreaching presentation and a hefty price tag at the end of the meal – dinner as an event with expectations unto its own. “The traditional steakhouse and bar experience focuses on the ‘upscale’ dining, probably a special occasion rather than a family outing or an evening with friends. This is exactly what MR MIKES irreverently combats in the marketplace. You can come with your family, or your buddies for a beer, wear casual clothes, have some great food and be comfortable,” says Chakrabarti.
With the new look and feel to its business, the company is set to expand farther across western Canada, and offer this casual approach to the steakhouse experience in smaller cities and towns in northern B.C., northern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – areas that are benefiting from the boom in the energy industry, and that attract new workforces and new lifestyles.
In 2013, MR MIKES opened five new locations in Bonnyville, Alta., Slave Lake, Alta., Kamloops, B.C., Kitimat, B.C., and Yorkton, Sask. All of these restaurants became an immediate success, signalling that SteakhouseCasual experience is exactly what Canadians crave. To date, MR MIKES has 24 locations in total, but the business goals of the franchise are beyond bold. According to Chakrabarti, the company has received enough interest and commitment from potential franchisees that the chain will double the number of locations in the next three years.
With the exponential rise of MR MIKES in the hospitality market, the company is looking for franchisees who are not simply service and people-oriented, but who are also passionate and business-oriented, and who have a greater vision, seeking to open more than a single MR MIKES location.
“Our franchisees were an important part of our research during the reinvention of our brand, and they are always at the centre of our business development,” Chakrabarti notes. “The existing franchisees are very driven business people. We measure success through our franchisees, because we can only be successful if our franchisees are successful. That’s why we make sure that we do everything possible to support our franchisees and make them more profitable.”
“New franchisees are flocking towards us and are very excited about the brand, and the success of the existing restaurants. While the growth for the next three years is set, we remain aggressive. We already know that we will reach over 50 units, so we want to try and double that to grow to over 100 restaurants in the next five years,” concludes Chakrabarti.