The local market did not go flat for Ricky's Pancake House, nor did the economic crisis cool their grill. This coming week, the restaurant chain renews its vows with Prince George.
Ricky's closed its longstanding P.G. location because the franchise owners simply wanted to retire. About five years ago Larry and Louise Holford flipped over the "closed" sign for the last time on the downtown restaurant they had operated since 1978.
Like all-star goalie Dominic Hasek and pitching ace Roger Clemens, they eventually lost the taste for retirement. Ricky's corporate owner Frank Di Benedetto had been looking for a way to bring the name back to Prince George, and turned to the veteran restaurateur couple for advise. Those discussions turned into a fresh new relationship, with the Holfords agreeing to keep ownership of the branded facility with the corporation, but they would operate it.
"Larry and Louise had a very good business going, they made a move at the time based on their own life's needs," Di Benedetto said. "Now they are coming back, and I always wanted the Ricky's brand to come back to P.G. so we arrived at a strategy. We are so pleased that two of our best ambassadors are back to be the stewards of that. They are extremely well known in Prince George, they are very successful at working with their community, they have a lot of credibility, and we have made some changes to our operations as well that will be consistent with where Larry and Louise are in their lives. They used to run a 4,000 square foot restaurant, and this will be more of a boutique situation, and the hours will be more suitable for them."
Some things had changed for Ricky's in the time the Holfords were away. Ricky's All-Day Grill is the new name and personality of the restaurant chain. Also, the corporation bought the Fatburger chain and is joining the two together in many locations across Canada.
This is what will be done in Prince George as well. Fatburger is currently closed for renovations to accommodate Ricky's. It will be pancakes and steaks on one side, burgers and shakes on the other. Di Benedetto said there would be some physical separations between the two businesses, but some common aspects too like washrooms and kitchen.
"It is a wonderful collaboration between the businesses and a wonderful collaboration between Larry and Louise and our Ricky's head office," he said. "It was an unanticipated stroke of a great idea for the Holfords and Ricky's to get remarried, if you will."
Although much of the menu is set across the Ricky's chain, the iconic status held by the Prince George couple meant Di Benedetto didn't mind adding a special line of Louise's own recipes that were once staples on their original Ricky's menu for so many years, including pies whole or by the slice.
Fatburger reopens on Oct. 20 and after a couple of special events on the other side of the restaurant the pancakes and steaks will once again ignite the familiar Ricky's sign on Oct. 23. They are located near Canadian Tire in the Westgate Plaza.