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4/16/15-Checkers looks to add restaurant sites in the region

The Florida-based Checkers & Rally’s Inc. restaurant company has its eye on an Upstate New York expansion—including Rochester—after its new distribution deal with Kirkwood, Broome County-based Willow Run Foods Inc.  

Its plan for Upstate New York could mean adding 40 to 50 new locations in the region. Each restaurant would employ 30 staffers on average, officials said.

The company, which specializes in a variety of classic American cuisine, including burgers, wings and milkshakes, is looking for local franchisees.

“What’s exciting for us is this growth into Rochester and the rest of Upstate New York will really create brand awareness and certainly employment for the folks in the local community,” said Jennifer Durham, vice president of franchise development.

Last year the firm reached a deal with Willow Run Foods—a casual dining and fast food distributor with annual of roughly $500 million—to expand into the Northeast. Checkers has one local location, in Victor on Aldridge Road.

“Willow Run had really impressed us and we awarded them the business,” Durham said.  “Willow Run’s reach is so much further than our previous distribution partner so we’re actually able now go into markets like Rochester and New England.”

Checkers has more than 800 restaurants throughout the country—of which 40 percent are company-owned and operated. The fast food drive-in chain has locations in 30 states.

Once a franchisee is found it takes generally around 18 months to begin full operation.

“Our success will really be driven not so much (by) the brand as much as our selection of franchisee,” Durham said. “I think Upstate New York has great potential. It’s really about great franchisees but I also think our brand is unique in that it’s attainable.”

Durham’s goal for 2015 is to find four to five franchisees for the upstate region.

Source: Rochester Business Journal