Glenn Beattie, 44, was back in his hometown yesterday for the opening of the state’s first Corner Bakery Café.
Beattie grew up on Major Potter Road, attended Cedar Hill School and Winman Junior High before graduating from Toll Gate. He went on to Providence College, but left the state and the halls of academia at the age of 21 and moved to Arizona.
It’s there that he entered the restaurant business. It was an introduction that brought him full circle to New England where he plans to open six Corner Bakeries in Rhode Island and an additional 16 in Connecticut in the next seven years.
But listening to Beattie on Monday – the first day of operation for the Warwick bakery, just off Route 2 at 21 Universal Boulevard – two people played significant roles in bringing him to where he is today; his father, Richard, and his wife, Tina.
Beattie’s father, now retired, owned and operated Warwick Tree Service. At an early age, Beattie learned the importance of work. He had a Providence Journal route and by the time he was in high school, he didn’t have the time for athletics because he was cutting wood and working with his father. The whole family worked in the tree business.
He grew to love work so much that he saw little value in his college studies, something that he regrets now.
In Arizona, Beattie landed a job as an assistant manager at a Denny’s Restaurant. There was no lack of work. Denny’s is open 24-7 every day. Soon Beattie made manager, then district manager, regional manager and, in time, vice president of operations.
It was a Rhode Island connection, however, that opened the next door for possibility … and challenge.
Beattie could see three Denny’s franchises were having difficulty and, unless changes were made. He thought he could turn around three restaurants. The bank behind the restaurants turned out to be Textron Financial and, because of his Rhode Island connections, Beattie found the right person to talk with at Textron. He told them he could make the business work. That was 10 years ago.
“They took that chance,” he said.
It was a good move for Beattie and Textron. In a two-year span, the three restaurants averaged 85 percent more sales.
An avid reader, Beattie said there are scores of books on how to operate restaurants and manage businesses. He has boiled it down to two simple axioms, words that are taped to the exit door in the Warwick kitchen – “Be nice, say yes.” Do that and people come back, he said.
Beattie built his initial successes on repeat business. From his three Denny’s, Beattie skyrocketed to 37, with franchises in Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester, N.Y. The company he and his wife own, Top Line Restaurants Inc., employs 1,600, although he refers to the company as a “family-run business.”
The two of them believed there were additional opportunities and started their research. He visited restaurant franchises, not just corporate offices, but eating at the stores and looking at their operations. Beattie saw a lot of things he liked about the Corner Bakery. It offered quality food and the price point was better than competitors. Corner Bakery offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. No item on the menu at the Warwick bakery is more than $8.89. What made it especially attractive to Beattie was that, unlike any other restaurant chain in the “fast-casual segment,” each Corner Bakery offers a catering service. It’s a business that offers great potential in this area.
Tina found something else at Corner Bakery. The Beatties have three children. The eldest is a 15-year-old son from a previous marriage, and the youngest are 5 and 2. With the kids in tow, Tina realized the advantage of delivering food to a customer’s table and convenience of cleaning up after. It all fits with building relationships.
The clincher turned out to be a visit to Corner Bakery offices in Chicago where the company started. It was there he met Ric Scicchitano, senior vice president of food and beverages. Scicchitano talked about the importance of food and what goes into making good meals.
“If this guy cares about this this much, it’s got to be good,” he said Beattie.
Beattie calls Tina “the brains behind the business.” He said she makes the decisions on financing and real estate. He also said she’s a “poor cook” because she’s a type A personality who will be caring for the kids while working on the computer and cooking dinner at the same time and watching as the dinner ends up getting burned.
As for Rhode Island, Beattie called the Route 2 bakery “a no-brainer for me.” In response to help wanted ads, the restaurant received 500 applicants, of which 60 were hired. He expects the second Corner Bakery to open in Garden City by the end of January.
Beattie has also heard Brewed Awakenings plans to open a store in the former Rover dealership directly across Route 2, but Beattie didn’t seem too worried. He said he put more than $1 million in converting the former mattress store into the bakery. He expects to invest more than $25 million in the 22 bakeries, which come under the corporate umbrella of Northeast Restaurants LLC.
With so much invested in the northeast, and with family in the area, Beattie muses he might just come back to Warwick, perhaps buying a summerhouse here. But it won’t be for a vacation.
“Going on vacation, that’s work for me,” he said. “This is just fun.”