North Dakota's oldest Applebee's has gotten a fresh, new look.
The Minot restaurant, located at 2302-15th Street Southwest, near Dakota Square Mall, has been remodeled inside and out. Craig Giroux, general manager, said construction began Sept. 12 and was completed around Oct. 3.
With the amount of business Applebee's does and the number of guests who walk through the doors every day, Giroux said it's important to keep the restaurant's look from going stale over time.
"Throughout the year we change our menu up and it's just a change in the environment and keeping it fresh for the guests, also for the establishment," Giroux said.
They did the remodel about a year earlier than was required, but considering the beating the building takes from foot traffic, Giroux said the time was right.
Annette Schilling, marketing director for FMI Inc., which owns Applebee's in Minot, said the restaurant's owners, Abe Sakak and Myron Thompson, wanted to help with Minot's revitalization after the devastating Souris River flood this summer.
"The new Applebee's decor gives the opportunity to create stronger connections to our Minot neighborhood. This restaurant was the first Applebee's in North Dakota and very much connected to the fabric of the community," Thompson said in a press release. "For the past 21 years, Minot has not only been home to our first Applebee's, but it's also where we live and have raised our families. Minot will continue to recover, grow and rebuild and our Applebee's team is very anxious to share our revitalized look and improved service with our guests."
Schilling said the Minot Applebee's is not only the number one restaurant in FMI's stable, it's also one of the top Applebee's in the country, making it something to be proud of.
"We really wanted to make sure our team members had a restaurant they are excited about and proud of," Schilling said. "And also for our neighborhood, we wanted to make sure that people in Minot knew it was important to us to have a great place to eat."
Sid Gousheh, assistant general manager, said the public has been incredibly pleased with all the changes taking place. He said the fresh atmosphere gives their guests a good feeling and makes them want to come back again and again.
"They feel that this location is a home for them," Gousheh said. "They are very close to this place."
Giroux said the biggest difference people will notice on the inside is the walls. The decorative knickknacks, also called tchotchkes, have been taken down in favor of wallpaper with colorful pictures. There are also several giant photographic murals on the walls with local themes such as Minot schools, including Minot State University, agriculture, Norsk Hostfest, the Canadian Pacific railroad, ranching, the oil industry, the seasons and Minot Air Force Base. There is even a celebrity mural, which of course has Josh Duhamel, an actor and Minot native who has helped with Minot's rebuilding process after the Souris River flooded this summer.
Giroux said Applebee's has always been involved in the community, and they wanted to reflect that with the ambiance in the restaurant. The murals, which stretch all the way to the ceiling, are definitely eye-catching and all the pictures used to make them come from local photographers.
"All the photos came from local events and things," Giroux said.
"So we shrink everything, we just made it North Dakota, that's your place," Gousheh added.
There is also new carpet and lighting, and the booths now have higher backs, giving customers additional privacy during their meal. There are also more TVs scattered around the interior, allowing more customers the opportunity to watch the programming they want, which is always helpful during football season.
The employees have been enjoying the new look as much as the customers. Giroux said the staff especially likes all the comments they get from guests.
"Some people, they sit down and they'll see it's new, and they'll walk around and go look at everything and see what's new and tell everybody what they like the most," Giroux said.
Gousheh said the staff has been very dedicated and patient throughout the whole process, as Applebee's remained open during much of the remodeling because construction crews worked through the night. He also said the positive attitude of the customers was a big help through it all.
All that work definitely paid off when the first customers saw it and couldn't contain their enthusiasm.
"The the word 'wow' came from many customers," Gousheh said. "'Wow, that's great.' You didn't have to ask them, they just expressed it right away when the stepped into the place."
"They really enjoy the clean look, less items on the walls and everything, and nice pictures," Giroux added.
The exterior of the building had some pretty big changes of its own. Some of the neon lights around the building's perimeter were taken down to provide a more subdued look. The old, striped awnings were taken down and replaced with green ones featuring the Applebee's apple logo, while LED lighting behind them really brightens things up.
"And then we added the front entrance, it almost looks like a tower as you come in," Giroux said. "It's really changed the look of that (entrance)."
Light-colored stonework has also been added to the building's facade to complement the older red brickwork, giving the exterior an almost entirely different look.
Giroux said they were going for a cleaner, more simplified appearance with the remodel, which is a change customers have asked for in the past. As for himself, Giroux likes the new look as much as the customers.
"I really enjoy it. I just think the murals, especially being local, really kind of brings home into the workplace," Giroux said, noting this is the third remodel he's been through and so far it's his favorite.
"I think once I see the people - they enjoy it very much, I feel they really do - I'm just so happy to see that," Gousheh added. "I am for the people. When the people are happy, I am happy."
To everyone involved, this isn't just an Applebee's, it's Minot's Applebee's. Everyone, from the owners to management to the staff, are not only extremely proud of the restaurant, but of the city as well.
"Overall it brought the spirit of Minot into this place, a place that really shows the pride for the city here," Gousheh said.
"This is North Dakota's first Applebee's, it's owned by two guys from Minot, and it's very personal to them," Schilling added.