The opening of Olga’s Kitchen in Canton Wednesday morning kicks off the company’s new interior design and the launch of a drive to open more than 100 new restaurants in the next five years, according to company officials.
“We see this new restaurant as being more contemporary and relevant. Our new menu has more modern items and bold ethnic flavors, and our décor is more elegant,” Matt Carpenter, Olga's CEO said in an interview Monday.
Company and township officials gathered for a ribbon cutting at the new restaurant, at 41725 Ford Rd.
The Troy-based firm opened its first location in Birmingham in 1970, and now has 35 restaurants in three states, mostly in Michigan. The restaurant is known for its bright orange décor and matching orange smoothies, for pita-style sandwiches and a kid-friendly atmosphere.
A staple of indoor malls, the company started to branch out in the past decade with standalone restaurants. The new Canton location will revitalize the brand even more, Carpenter said.
The difference in style is immediately seen when visiting the Canton location, on Ford Road across from the IKEA west of Haggerty, is that it’s not as big as other Olga’s restaurants. “It’s about 20% smaller, about 3,000 square feet, but there’s still just as much seating as in our locations,” Carpenter said.
From the outside, the size difference is noticeable, but the inside is larger than it looks, and has elements that open the space up more than one of the company’s traditional restaurants. For example, the kitchen wall is open, allowing guests to see their food being made. In addition to the normal booths and tables, there is one long table that seats two or three families at once.
More modern furnishings and design blends with the stocked bar on one side to give the new restaurant an adult café feel, but Marketing Director Chad Oliver says the firm is not trying to accentuate the alcohol. “We’re not going to have happy hours,” Oliver said. “We just want to provide a place where mom and dad might want to take the kids out, but mom might want to have a glass of red wine with dinner.”
Carpenter said that with the launch of the new restaurants, the modernization is to show that Olga’s isn’t just “that sandwich shop in the mall” anymore.
“Malls have declined in popularity since the early 2000s. We had to find a way to position our brand differently. People are still going out to eat, but not as often, and restaurants have to get better for residents to drive somewhere at $4 a gallon of gas,” Carpenter said.
He said the firm has chosen to create a suburban neighborhood restaurant that caters to areas with a high density of middle- to upper-class, working families, with the whole “soccer mom, minivans in the garage” mentality. “Canton is a sweet spot,” the CEO said.
With most of the restaurants already in Michigan, many of the new stores will be created in adjacent states, such as Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Canton Township Supervisor Phil LaJoy said at Monday's ribbon-cutting that the community is fortunate to get a restaurant that puts 50 more people to work.
“It’s always exciting to see new businesses come to Canton, and it shows how we’re growing in this economy,” LaJoy said.