One of Canada’s fastest-growing casual-dining restaurant chains — Mr. Mikes SteakhouseCasual — has opened a second outlet in rural Manitoba and plans to open its first one in Winnipeg early next year.

The chain, which is owned by Burnaby, B.C.-based RAMMP Hospitality Brands Inc., entered the Manitoba market over a year ago when its first franchised outlet opened in Dauphin.

Now that outlet has been joined by a second franchised outlet that opened last Tuesday in Winkler. A RAMMP Hospitality Brands official said those two are just the beginning.

“We’ve got big plans for the (Manitoba) market,” Rick Villalpando, the company’s senior vice-president of business development, said in an interview.

Villalpando said the chain hopes to open up to six Mr. Mikes outlets in Winnipeg, including three in the next four or five years. The first will be a 5,200-square-foot restaurant/bar that is scheduled to open next April in the Linden Ridge Shopping Centre at the corner of Kenaston and McGillivray boulevards.

He said he’s also scouting out potential sites in Brandon, and has his eye on two other southern Manitoba urban centres — Selkirk and Portage la Prairie.

“And I’d love to get up to Thompson. I think that would be a home run for us,” he said. “But most of the development (over the next few years) will take place in Winnipeg as we build that out.”

Villalpando said it’s too early to say how long it might take to get six outlets opened in the Manitoba capital. It will depend on how long it takes to find the right locations and the right franchisees.

He noted the franchisee for the Linden Ridge outlet plans to open three in the city over the next four or five years. Sites for the other two outlets have not been determined.

The new Mr. Mikes in Winkler is owned by a group of 10 investors from the area. A spokesman for the group — entrepreneur Kevin Braun — said this is the group’s first foray into the restaurant/bar business.

He said they felt the Mr. Mikes concept would be a good fit for the southern Manitoba city of just over 12,500 residents. For one thing, there were no other steakhouses in the city. Also, they thought the casual atmosphere of a Mr. Mikes restaurant/bar would appeal to local diners.

Like most Mr. Mikes outlets, the Winkler one is about 5,200 square feet in size and seats up to 180 people in the restaurant and bar combined. There is also a 40- to 50-seat outdoor patio.

Braun, who also owns and operates Centennial Supply, a wholesale marketer of Petro-Canada petroleum products in the Winkler area, said he and his Mr. Mikes partners have no plans to acquire any more restaurant franchises. “This is probably going to be a one-shot deal.”

Villalpando is also convinced the Mr. Mikes concept, which encourages customers to play board games or watch movies or televised sports events while in the bar, will be well received in Winkler, especially after seeing the big turnout on opening day.

“Our first day… was extraordinary for a Tuesday. They were hitting numbers that you’d expect to see on a weekend.”

He noted Winkler not only has a growing economy and a good-sized population, it also serves as a regional hub for the Pembina Valley.

“So there are a lot of people passing through and coming to Winkler.”

Villalpando said he likes the Winnipeg market for some of the same reasons.

“It’s also a very strong restaurant market in Winnipeg. (It has) a lot of restaurant diners who go out a lot.”

He said establishing a strong presence in Winnipeg will boost the company’s local profile and should help to spur interest from potential franchisees in other urban centres around the province.

The Winkler restaurant/bar is Mr. Mikes’ 35th franchised outlet in Western Canada. Villalpando said it expects to add seven more by the end of next April, including its first in Ontario.

It’s taking a longer than expected for a new tenant to set up shop in the former American Apparel space in the Osborne Village.

It was originally hoped the new Anytime Fitness outlet would be open before the end of this month. But co-owner Victor Barnabe confirmed in an interview it will be closer to the end of the year before the facility opens.

He said that due to summer holidays and other factors, it took longer than expected to obtain city approval for its new outlet.

“We finally got the conditional-use permit late Wednesday,” he said. “Now we’re just waiting for the city to issue the (building) permit so we can begin the renovations.”

Barnabe said it will take 10 to 12 weeks to convert the former clothing store into a fitness centre, complete with showers, washrooms, change rooms, a gym area and a small group fitness room.

The facility, located at 108 Osborne St., will be the second Anytime Fitness location for Barnabe and business partner Kyle Amos. The other one is on Main Street.

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