April 26, 2012 | last updated June 1, 2012 2:10 pm

Corner Bakery Café plans 22 sites in CT, RI

A New York state restaurant operator is preparing to invest more than $25 million to debut in suburban Connecticut and Rhode Island a bakery-caf concept to compete against Panera Bread and other "fast-casual" dining outlets.

Glenn Beattie, an East Greenwich, R.I., native who with wife, Tina, are among Denny's restaurants biggest franchisees, says they will open their first of six Corner Bakery Caf in Glenn Beattie's home state by summer 2013, followed by 16 others in Connecticut.

Beattie's Top Line Restaurants has exclusive rights to open Corner Bakery outlets in both states, he said.

Specific communities to get a Corner Bakery Caf have yet to be identified, but in Connecticut Beattie says his eyes are on retail sites in suburban Bridgeport, Waterbury, Danbury and Hartford, among others.

"We're family focused as far as the communities we go into,'' he said.

Each restaurant is roughly 4,000 square feet, with indoor seating for 125 and outdoor patio space for another 25 or so patrons, Beattie said. Each averages 30 to 50 employees, meaning 800 to 1,000 new jobs for New England if all the Corner Bakerys open.

The Corner Bakery franchise launched in downtown Chicago 21 years ago, offering a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu featuring Panini sandwiches, fresh-baked bread and pastries, cookies and muffins, fruit and hand-roasted coffee.

Owner Roark Capital Group plans to double its 130 locations in 14 states over the next three years, said Corner Bakery CEO Mike Hislop. Hislop said the annual volume per restaurant average $2.2 million.

"There are multiple untapped markets throughout the Northeast and across the country that are perfect for multi-unit Corner Bakery Cafe agreements," Hislop said in a statement. "We've perfected the Corner Bakery Cafe business model by running company-owned cafes for more than 20 years and know that our brand caters well to the dense populations and family-focused lifestyles in Connecticut and Rhode Island."

Top Line Restaurants owns and operates 37 Denny's in western New York and Arizona, where he got his start in restaurants as a manager assistant at a Denny's in Mesa, he said.

When the franchisee that operated Denny's in Arizona, including where Beattie worked, fell on financial hard times, Beattie said he got a bank loan and paid $2.3 million for three of them.

Today, Top Line generates more than $55 million in sales per year from its Denny's restaurants, he said.

For now, he and his wife reside in western New York but soon will choose whether to relocate to either Connecticut or Rhode Island to be closer to their newest venture.

"The Corner Bakery will be our main focus for the near term,'' Glenn Beattie said.

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