With city council recently approving the permit to bring a Mr Mikes Steakhouse Casual to Prince Albert, many restaurant owners are wondering how this new venture will affect their businesses.
© Herald photo by Ian Cowie
Construction crews level the ground at 945-801 15th Street East in preparation for a new steakhouse being built at that location. On Monday, Prince Albert city council approved the application to build a Mr Mikes Steakhouse Casual at the Cornerstone Shopping District along 15th Street East.
Shawn Lealos, owner of Sopranos Steakhouse and Lone Wolf Catering in Prince Albert said he is all for competition but is concerned about the pressure this might put on an already tight staffing situation.
“As far as I’m concerned, the more competition, the better were going to get,” Lealos said. “My only concern is finding enough staff.”
“If we’re already having a hard time finding staff at certain times of year, what’s it going to be like when Montana’s and Mr Mikes move in year next year?”
As of Wednesday, there were 394 available jobs on Sask-Jobs.ca in Prince Albert, including 170 in the service sector.
Dave Nussbaumer is a founding partner of the Original Six, the investment company that is bringing the Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual restaurant to Prince Albert.
“I’m all for competition,” Nussbaumer said. “If I can make someone cook a better meal or provide a better service, ultimately, it’s good for the consumer.”
“If anything, local stores have the upper hand because they don’t have to pay any franchising fees.”
Even more competition might be on the way.
Montana's Cookhouse, another Canadian chain, currently has a note on its website's franchising page saying that an immediate opportunity is available in Prince Albert.
After doing thorough market research, Nussbaumer and his partners decided Prince Albert was the right market fit for the growing franchise.
“We believe in our province and that’s why we’re investing in it,” Nussbaumer said.
“We believe there’s enough business in P.A. for everyone to be happy, but if there is a causality in the market from us coming to P.A., that’s just the way the world works.”
After opening a Mr Mikes Steakhouse Casual in Yorkton in March, Nussbaumer said he started getting complaints from other restaurant owners accusing him of poaching employees.
“I’ve actually been kicked out of a few restaurants in Yorkton because they thought we were stealing their employees,” he said. “It’s not like we went after anyone’s staff, we just offered a more competitive wage and better benefits.”
Lealos said he wouldn’t stop anyone from eating in his restaurant -- even a rival business owner.
“He’s welcome to eat in Sopranos anytime he wants,” Lealos said.
The steakhouse is slated for completion in the spring of 2014, and will be situated south of Rona in the Cornerstone Shopping District.
The investment group also considered Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Brandon as possible locations for the steakhouse franchise, but ultimately settled on Prince Albert.
“We’re very high on Prince Albert,” he said. “I think the north is going to continue to thrive as pulp and paper industry begins to pick up.”
Mr Mikes Steakhouse Casual first opened its doors in Vancouver in 1960 with a cafeteria-style restaurant where you grabbed a tray, placed your order at the grill, and then served yourself after your steak was cooked.
Over the last five decades, the steakhouse has gone through a number of transformations, and nowadays, Nussbaumer says it most closely resembles Boston Pizza or The Keg.
“It’s a meat and potatoes kind of place, with chicken and our signature Mikeburger as well.”
The franchise has focused on developing mainly in secondary markets like Prince Albert, and Nussbaumer said they are currently negotiating property for a third location in Regina.