Popular Halifax restaurant plans Bridgewater franchise

by Stacey Colwell

The pending arrival of a popular Halifax restaurant franchise has foodies in Bridgewater buzzing.

"The response to our social media posts about coming to Bridgewater has been phenomenal," said Melinda M. Lee, Chef Inspired Group of Restaurants' chief financial officer.

After announcing via Facebook that a Cheese Curds Gourmet Burgers and Poutinerie/Habaneros Modern Taco Bar was coming to the Eastside Plaza, the post was shared almost 400 times.

"The Facebook post was one of the most, if not the most, viewed and engaged posts we have ever done. We are beyond excited about how many fans we already have in Bridgewater."

Now, they're looking for a franchisee.

"We have received more interest than we ever could have imagined," said Lee, adding a number of appointments have already been booked based on early applications.

She said when the Metro-based company started eyeing Atlantic Canadian expansion, Bridgewater was an obvious choice due to its large catchment area as the shopping hub of the South Shore and the fact it's one of the few small towns that is actually growing.

"Bridgewater also has a lot of the large fast food chains and a lot of independent restaurants - but nothing like us."

Lee said the quick-serve Cheese Curds/Habaneros combination works well because it provides something for everyone.

"Cheese Curds - we never said it was healthy - is a treat, an indulgence, where Habaneros is the healthy option that you can go back for several days in a row and not feel guilty."

Cheese Curds offers gourmet, made-to-order burgers, dogs and poutine.

"Our burgers are hand mixed and pounded daily and our fries are hand chipped every morning as well ... All of our burgers, poutines, and dogs can be topped with a large selection of house made toppings such as pulled pork, buffalo chicken or spiced donair meat."

Besides beef burgers, there are lamb, pork schnitzel, chicken and vegetarian options.

The Mexican fusion Habaneros features tacos, burritos, burrito bowl salads, nachos and quesadillas with various homemade topping choices.

The first Cheese Curds opened in Dartmouth in 2012 and helped spur a gourmet burger craze of sorts in Halifax.

"The immediate success of Cheese Curds was overwhelming, with lineups out the door for several months," said Lee.

The company opened its first Habaneros Modern Taco Bar later that same year, then eventually expanded to catering, food trucks and a handful of other restaurants in the Halifax area.

The driving force behind the brands is chef Bill Pratt, who served 27 years in the Canadian Forces and was in charge of all navy cooks. He has also cooked for Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana aboard the royal yacht, worked as a private chef for former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney, competed in The Food Network's Iron Chef America, and served as IOC head production chef during the 2002 Olympics and as executive chef for the athlete's village during the 2010 Olympics.

Lee said when Pratt's Bridgewater Cheese Curds/Habaneros opens will depend upon when the company finds the right franchisee.

"Ideally, if we can have our franchisee in place within the next month or so, we would love to start construction in early 2017 and be open in the spring."

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