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Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011

Griddlers Café Launches New Era

Former George Webb franchises break the mold

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After more than 50 years, customers have learned what to expect from the George Webb franchise: a familiar menu of burgers, sandwiches, soups and 24-hour breakfasts at a bargain price, in a humble, earth-toned lunch-counter setting with a pair of clocks on the wall. The one thing nobody expects from George Webb, though, is change, and that's made Don Hensiak's job a delicate one lately.

Last month Hensiak and his brother Robb, longtime George Webb owners, broke from the franchise and reopened their five restaurants (4160 W. Loomis Road and 2012 W. Layton Ave. in Milwaukee, 211 N. Chicago Ave., South Milwaukee, 7510 W. Layton Ave., Greenfield, and 10706 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis) under the new name Griddlers Café. They're joined by a sixth former Webb location (N88 W16747 Appleton Ave., Menomonee Falls), owned by Diane Neavins, which will also operate as a Griddlers Café.

Hensiak says he was unable to come to terms with a new franchise agreement proposed by George Webb in May that increased franchise fees and required greater standardization between restaurants.

“It was a tough decision to pull the trigger and go out on our own,” he says. “But once we made that decision, we knew it was really important to spruce up the restaurants, and make it known that this was a new business with a new look.”

After a soft launch last month, Griddlers Café will celebrate its grand openings from Oct. 6-12. The locations have received a gentle, modern face-lift, with some of Webb's more rugged décor replaced and the restaurants' tiles and woodwork updated. They've also updated their menu, offering more sides (including barbecue bacon beans and a side salad), breakfast options and a new coffee blend and chili.

“We call our new chili 'Firehouse Chili,'” Hensiak says, “not because it's super-hot, but because it's really hearty, like you'd imagine the guys at a firehouse eating.”

Among the most popular new additions to the menu is the Jalapeno Hangover Burger, a double cheeseburger with bacon, jalapenos and a fried egg.

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