The famous clocks set just a minute apart from one another are down from the wall at Restaurant in Menomonee Falls, and soon the front sign will also come down. On Thursday a new era will begin in downtown when Griddlers Café opens, replacing George Webb.
And although the name might be changing, you can still expect much of the same 24-hour belly-filling service as before — just a little different. In fact, George Webb franchise owner Diane Neavins said Griddlers Café will harken back to what George Webb restaurants used to be.
But in a Brett Favre-like plot twist, Neavins could find herself competing with George Webb in Menomonee Falls within the next year. George Webb Vice President Ryan Stamm said Falls is tops on their list of communities to locate in.
“Menomonee Falls is going to be high on our list to get a unit built in. And we hope have something going by next year,” Stamm said. “It will be a little strange competing, but we will build a nice new big restaurant in Menomonee Falls. I’m hoping the community will continue to support the business as they have in the past.”
Neavins has owned the Geroge Webb franchise on Appleton Avenue since 1985, and she is joining five other George Webb’s franchise owners who have decided to leave the franchise and operate under the new name.
Neavins said the decision was made because owners weren’t seeing eye-to-eye with current Webb’s organization owner Phil Anderson, who has run the iconic franchise since 2005. Neavins said they felt constricted to what they could do with their business, and also saw some of their franchise fees increase.
Neavins said the decision to leave the franchise came when they were asked to sign a franchise agreement with corporate.
“It was going to be his way or no way, and not saying anything against that. Everyone has their own way to run a business,” Neavins said. “But we wanted to keep the business independent and family-owned like George Webb was in the beginning.”
Stamm said the new franchise agreement was created to build uniformity among the 28 George Webb locations in the state. He said there were numerous variations of franchise agreements with owners, which makes it difficult to expand operations.
“We needed to have each store match and be uniform,” Stamm said. “We changed the agreement because we want to expand the franchise, but we had to make sure all our franchise agreements were consistent so we can go forward with that.”
Stamm said consistency in how food was prepared was also important to ensure customers get the same experience regardless of the location they visited.
“That’s normal franchise operations, and that’s something we had to clean up internally,” Stamm said.
Stamm also confirmed that there were a number of small fee increases within the new agreement.
Neavins, whose father was one of the first George Webb’s franchise owners in the 1950s, said there used to be a lot of freedom and control for individual franchise owners. Neavins said Griddlers Café is a return to the flexibility that they enjoyed long ago.
“In a way it’s a step forward, but also a step back to our roots,” Neavins said. “We’re all descendents from the original owners, and we want to bring it back to the way it used to be.”
Joining Neavins in the name change of direction are former George Webb’s franchises at 10706 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis; 4160 W. Loomis Rd. and 7510 W. Layton Ave. in Greenfield; 2012 W. Layton Ave., Milwaukee; 211 N. Chicago Ave., South Milwaukee.
The Griddler’s Café franchise is owned Don and Robb Hensiak, whose family has been with George Webb for more than 50 years, 20 of those years as a franchise owners.
"We have different ideas about moving forward," said Don Hensiak, in a statement from the new franchsie. "Griddlers Cafe is an idea my brother and I have talked about for a long time and this was the right time to make it happen. It gives us the freedom to be more creative with our menu innovations, make our operations simpler and more responsive and allows us to be more involved in the communities we serve."
Griddlers Café will include more lunch offerings including new deli-style sandwiches, hamburgers and double cheeseburgers that are 50 percent larger and served on premium buns. They’ll also serve homemade soups and a "Firehouse Chili" with a wider variety of condiments and add-ons.
“It’ll be different, but I’ve tasted them all and they are very good,” Neavins said.
Griddlers Cafe will also serve coffee that is ground with its own special blend of coffee beans and flavors right on the premises. Neavins said prices on some menu items will even drop.
The Hensiaks chose the name, Griddlers Cafe, because the griddle is the heart of the restaurants' cook line
Neavins said the transition has been difficult, and sentimental. But what’s truly important about the business itself will remain in tact.
“It’s hard. I was born and raised with George Webb practically,” Neavins said. “It’s difficult, but the heart of what made this work will always be there even if the name changes.”