Restaurateur Chris Lynam recognizes the importance of innovation and renewal in a competitive market and particularly during times of economic downturn.
Mr. Lynam is a franchisee of The Canadian Brewhouse, a Canadian-themed sports bar founded in Alberta in 2002, which has expanded to 25 locations in Western Canada. He owns and manages two of the restaurants and will soon open a third. His longest-operating Canadian Brewhouse is in Sherwood Park, a community of about 95,000 near Edmonton.
Like many business operators in Alberta, Mr. Lynam is trying to survive, and indeed thrive, in a difficult economic environment as the province tries to recover from plunging oil prices and layoffs in the energy sector that began in 2014.
"We have certainly felt the impact of the economic challenges in Alberta; the reality is, people don't go out as much to eat," says Mr. Lynam. "Meanwhile, the cost of our business has gone up, with higher wage rates and rising food costs."
Competition is also vigorous because the sports bar is located on prime real estate, he adds. Situated on a main thoroughfare that offers high visibility and easy access is a business advantage, but at the same time, many other restaurants are located nearby.
"We know we can never come to work and rest on our laurels. We have to keep re-inventing ourselves every day," he says.
The Sherwood Park Canadian Brewhouse had a willing partner in its re-invention initiatives €“ its landlord, ReDev Properties, a Canadian, commercial real estate asset management company.
Since 2001, ReDev Properties has purchased and managed over 30 commercial real estate properties in Canada; the majority have been in Alberta, with other properties in Ontario and British Columbia.
Mr. Lynam went to ReDev Properties' president, Richard Crenian, and the company's director of asset management, Gary Hudson, with a proposal to share the costs of a major renovation and expansion of the sports bar. "I said that we have to keep up with the times and make sure we rebuild and rebrand. The landscape has changed a lot since we opened in 2010; now we have 25 restaurants to compete with."
The two parties came to an agreement on a tenant improvement allowance sum that would allow the project to proceed. In July 2016, The Canadian Brewhouse in Sherwood Park was closed for six weeks for an innovative redesign to create a layout with the look and feel of a sports stadium. The project added 1,700 square feet, which increased capacity by 120 seats.
Now the restaurant can hold more special events in closed-off areas, while the rest of the space is filled with sports-lovers watching games on big screens and cheering on their teams, while enjoying drinks and a meal.
"ReDev has been great in helping us with this project and as a landlord, overall," says Mr. Lynam. "They also have an excellent property management company, which is a reflection on them €“ and whenever I have concerns or a request, they value what I have to say and make quick decisions."