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This article was published 9/9/2017 (283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Finding the franchise structure too restrictive, business owner Blake Trotter said that he was compelled to break free from the Browns Socialhouse branding.
Located across from the Keystone Centre on 18th Street, the restaurant shut down on Thursday, putting most of its 50 employees out of work.
By midday on Friday, all of the building’s "Browns Socialhouse" markings had been removed and a skeleton crew of staff kept on board was busy at work inside the building scrubbing away any remnants of the restaurant’s former life.
Trotter said that he plans on opening a new restaurant in the space by the end of the month, by which time he hopes to re-hire a majority of the employees he laid off this week.
The building was constructed from the ground-up to accommodate the franchise, and Trotter said that it was a significant investment he does not plan to turn his back on.
Sitting in a booth in the vacant restaurant space on Friday, a visibly exhausted Trotter said that he has been disheartened to read rumours percolate via social media about the restaurant during the hours that followed its sudden closure on Thursday.
Keen on setting the record straight, he said that although it appeared to be a sudden change, he’d been working with Browns Restaurant Group for the past three months in order to break free from the franchise.
"We mutually agreed that it was the right thing to do for my business," he said, adding that his goal is to better localize whatever restaurant takes the place of Browns Socialhouse later this month.
"I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want to be part of a large corporation and feel like I work for someone else," Trotter said.
"There are a lot of things we want to do that just aren’t part of Browns."
That said, Trotter added that he respects the franchise, in that they have a "great brand" and "amazing food and amazing cocktails," but were going in a different direction than he thought would best serve the Brandon marketplace.
Although he was a big fan of their menu, he said that he saw a need for something more "local" than the "West Coast" menu that Browns offered.
"I love that food, but that doesn’t mean everyone in Brandon loves that food," he said.
"We want more basic, I think more basic grassroots Brandon food … Brandon food is a meat and potatoes town. We’re in the Prairies, and I think that it’s simple."
He said that they’d almost nailed down a menu and were narrowing in on a name for the new restaurant, with a few options still bouncing around.
In addition to what is now the former Browns Socialhouse, Trotter and brother Landon own the Brandon Wendy’s Restaurant and the former Blü Kitchen and Bar, which shut down earlier this year and which they plan on reopening by December as a combination Gulliver’s Grill and pizza restaurant.
Although Trotter is currently expressing distaste for the franchise model, he said that Wendy’s is a different beast altogether and remains safely positioned in the Wheat City.
It’s a better-known brand and is a dependable fast food restaurant, though he’d argue, "significantly better than fast food."
Emails and a call to Browns Restaurant Group’s head office in Vancouver yielded no comments by press time on Friday.
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB