Originally created 12/16/04

Officials have high hopes for new Applebee's



The roar of diesel engines and the sloshing of freshly poured cement provided the soundtrack to Wednesday's ceremony welcoming Applebee's to south Augusta.

Officials at the event, well-attended for a winter ground-breaking ceremony, called it the "sounds of progress" in south Augusta.

Why so much hubbub?

With a dearth of casual dining chains in the city's southside, business leaders say the restaurant's arrival at Colony Plaza shopping center could put the area on the radar screens of other national restaurants.

"We're certainly proud to take the lead in this part of the market," said Charlie Snyder, the executive vice president of Restaurant Concepts II LLC, the developer of the 5,300-square-foot Applebee's franchise.

The Atlanta-based company owns Augusta's four other Applebee's and is one of the chain's largest franchisees in the nation, with more than 70 locations in eight states.

Helen Blocker-Adams, Richmond County's economic ombudsman for south Augusta, said she is convinced southside neighborhoods will respond well to the restaurant.

"I already told them this will be the best Applebee's in Augusta for sales revenue," she said.

Jason Beall, the area director for Augusta's Applebee's locations, said he expects employees from nearby industries such as Procter & Gamble, E-Z-Go and Sitel to boost sales levels above that of the Evans location, the city's top-performing restaurant and the company's No. 2 franchise nationwide.

"I think it will reach that level as soon as it opens," he said. "My expectation is that its going to be our biggest-volume store."

Adding to the allure is that the 198-seat restaurant, near Peach Orchard and Windsor Spring roads, will feature a new design concept that brings a more contemporary look to the 24-year-old chain.

The restaurant will be the first Applebee's in Georgia to feature the new design, company officials said.

The owners of Colony Plaza expect the restaurant to drive additional traffic to the 216,000-square-foot shopping center and help fill some of the space left vacant by former tenants Wal-Mart and Goody's Family Clothing.

"We'd like to get people out of the habit of calling it 'the old Wal-Mart center,'" said Scott Higgins, a partner in Colony Orchard Properties LLC, the center's owner. "We want people to think of it as the 'Applebee's center.'"

The Applebee's is just one of several national chains to locate near the Peach Orchard-Windsor Spring intersection since the opening of the nearby Lowe's Home Improvement Center four years ago.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com.