Successful B.C. franchisor buys ABC Country Restaurant chain

B.C. restaurateur Frank di Benedetto, whose Frankie's Family Restaurants Ltd. operates more than 100 restaurants across Canada, has spent an undisclosed amount to buy the 27-location ABC Country Restaurant Chain.

Frank di Benedetto is the Canadian master franchise holder for California-based Fatburger and he solely owns Ricky's All Day Grill

B.C. restaurateur Frank di Benedetto, whose Frankie's Family Restaurants Ltd. operates more than 100 restaurants across Canada, has spent an undisclosed amount to buy the 27-location ABC Country Restaurant Chain.

That will push the group’s restaurant count to about 140.

Di Benedetto’s company owns Ricky's All Day Grill, which has more than 70 franchised restaurants as well as the master franchise rights for Canada for Fatburger, which has more than 35 locations in Canada including about a dozen that di Benedetto corporately owns.

“Our intention is to integrate the ABC brand into our family style restaurant group and continue to provide strong leadership, innovation and strategic marketing to both brands on a non-competing platform,” Di Benedetto said in an August 18 release.

He hinted to BIV in January that he was on the verge of making a large acquisition but he said at the time that he was more focused on Ontario.

Di Benedetto was not immediately available to explain his shift in strategy to instead by ABC, which only has restaurants in B.C. and Alberta.

One thing that is clear is that di Benedetto is rebranding Frankie’s Family Restaurants Ltd. as FDF Restaurant Brandz starting September 1.

The acquisition will not impact management of the company’s Fatburger restaurants but former Ricky’s vice-president of operations Stacey Hansson has been promoted to senior vice-president to be responsible for franchising, operations and marketing for both the Ricky’s and ABC brands.

Di Benedetto is one of those rare entrepreneurs who, nine years ago at 51 years old, was not content to run just the fast-growing Ricky's restaurant chain.

He wanted to run a second brand.

So in 2005, his Frankie's Family Restaurants Ltd. launched the Fatburger brand in Canada and expanded it to now operate in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Canadian landlords frequently like the balance of having the family-casual Ricky's and the upscale fast-food Fatburger brands together in the same development.

That's why, in locations such as on Dunsmuir Street by Stadium SkyTrain station, the two operate successfully side by side.

Di Benedetto's first exposure to Ricky's came in May 1998 when he took a consulting assignment to redevelop what was then Ricky's Pancake House and to raise the profile of its brand. He went on to be the company's president and, eventually, its owner.

It was not Di Benedetto's first stab at being an entrepreneur, although most of his early career was climbing the corporate ladder within McDonald's Corp. (NYSE:MCD).

His first job was at a McDonald's in his hometown of Prince George as a young teenager. He moved to Vancouver after he turned 18 and soon became the assistant manager at McDonald's first downtown restaurant in Canada, at the corner of Smithe and Granville streets.

The next year, in 1973, he was promoted to a store manager in Montreal. He returned to Vancouver to be a store manager before agreeing to go to Winnipeg, at 22, to become a regional manager.

The realization that he had an entrepreneurial passion prompted him to leave McDonald's in 1986, when he was in his early 30s.

He invested with the upstart Umbertino's chain, which sold fast-casual pasta. Within a few years, however, the chain collapsed.

Other ventures followed, but none had significant success.

Finally, in the mid-1990s di Benedetto found his mark.

White Spot Restaurants Ltd. president Warren Erhart hired Di Benedetto as a consultant to help develop the concept for what is now Triple O's.

It was that one-year assignment that gave Di Benedetto renewed vigour and confidence and the ability to land other prime consulting jobs. His next stop was the Ricky's assignment, from which he never looked back.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom