August 6, 2011 in Washington Voices

Burger shop owners move past franchise

Jill Barville, Jbarville@Msn.Com
 

When the recession slowed business to a barely profitable trickle at the Spokane Valley A&W franchise, owners Duane and Brandi Behrens started brainstorming. “We were close to closing the doors but wanted to figure out how to make it work,” said Brandi, noting almost six percent of gross sales went to the franchise. “We love the Valley. We live out here.”

Since more and more customers were requesting healthy meal options, the Behrens opted to close the A&W and open their brainchild, Wraps, in its place on July 15. The restaurant serves a variety of healthy fare along with the burgers and fries their longtime customers had grown to expect at the Sullivan and Sprague location.

To make the atmosphere enticing, the Behrenses repainted the restaurant with bright colors and installed several large-screen televisions with all the sports channels, so you can catch a Zags game. Most importantly, they tried to create a menu of meals that are tasty and affordable.

“It’s full-service quality food that doesn’t break the bank,” said Duane.

“We came up with a restaurant we want to go to,” added Brandi, pointing out her three kids eating breakfast at one of the booths while watching television. “We’re a family of five that understands the economy.”

While a variety of wraps, from a country breakfast wrap to a grilled chicken wrap, are main menu items, they also offer other options like burritos, salads and seafood to tempt the taste buds. And the Behrenses, who still operate two A&W franchises, in NorthTown Mall and on North Division, are still partial to a good burger.

“We didn’t want to turn away customers we had,” Brandi said.

“I’m a burger and fry guy,” said Duane, adding that he loves fiery food and made sure the menu had several spicy options, like his favorite, the spicy chicken wrap. “There’s something for everyone.”

Knowing that members of most families have different tastes, the Behrenses believe they can please any palate, whether you want a healthy veggie wrap or crave a plate of chili-cheese fries.

“Give us one try and we’ll make you a fan,” said Brandi.

The Behrenses are also pleased to support other local businesses, with URM as their primary supplier. “It’s all purchased locally. It’s nice to keep it in the community,” said Duane.

After only a four-day break to paint and hang signs and televisions, the Behrenses opened with little advertising, counting on current customers to come back and then spread the word. It worked, because one week after opening they were matching sales from the restaurant’s A&W days.

“Our customers are so encouraging, supportive and nice,” said Brandi, adding that many have expressed appreciation for the many healthy meal choices.

“We’ve been doing restaurant business together for fifteen years and never had people come up and say, ‘Thank you.’ It’s heart-warming.”


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