By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A well-known Bahamian restaurant chain yesterday said it is investing $3-$4m to create up to 40 jobs at its “futuristic” fifth location, saying: “We have to keep up with the trends.”
Gus Cartwright, Checkers Café’s proprietor and chief executive, told Tribune Business it is targeting mid-2019 for the opening of its East Street South location to mark the company’s 30th year in business.
“The main thing is we are going to be 30 years old next year June, and we wanted to do something to commemorate that and show that we are still strong and vibrant,” Mr Cartwright said. “We decided to build a new building and open a new location. We want to make a statement that we are vibrant and are on the right track. Thirty years in business is no small feat and we are grateful.”
Checkers currently has locations at Mackey Street, Robinson Road, Fox Hill and Carmichael Road. “Keeping up is not an easy job in The Bahamas when your competition has deep pockets,” said Mr Cartwright.
“The market has changed, and a lot of competition has come along. We started in 1989, and a lot of the fast food giants weren’t here. It’s amazing that we’re still in the game. I think we made some great choices with location, and I hope this new location works out as well. The main thing is being consistent. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline.”
Mr Cartwright said each restaurant typically employees between 30-40 persons, with 150 total staff currently working at the restaurant chain. “This new location is going to be a futuristic concept. It’s going to have walk-up windows and drive-through service; an indoor/outdoor concept,” he added.
“We didn’t want to keep going into the big dining room service. We want to keep up with the trends. When we closed the deal on the property I was excited, and that doesn’t usually happen. It’s very difficult to get a spot with all of the places in the area and everything so jammed up. Accessibility was key.
“Hopefully we will be finished by Easter of 2019, and we will have a grand opening around the middle of year. That’s the target. We want to finish the building and have a month or two to get settled.”
Mr Cartwright underscored the importance of businesses adapting to the times, and taking note of consumer trends. He said: “You have to repackage your programme. My daughter came on with the business in 2003, and she has been a tremendous asset. It’s her ideas and encouragement to change and modernise that has helped to propel us forward.
“When she suggested that we have Wi-Fi in the restaurants, I said go ahead. When we renovated, we made spaces for our customers to charge their phones and laptops. This is a modern world and everyone is doing so many things on their lunch break that you have to be accommodating to the customers. When you’re in business you can’t be afraid of change; I’m not afraid of change. You’re not changing your product; just the way you package it.”
Mr Cartwright described his latest venture as an “expensive undertaking”. He added: “The property alone exceeds $1 million. The entire development is going to be about $3-$4 million. If you want to make money you have to spend money. Construction is expensive and outfitting a restaurant, particularly the way we want to, is also expensive.”