Friday, August 13, 2010

Kermit's Newest Eatery - Huddle House!

ABOVE: Kermit's new Huddle House is part of the banner on the Huddleblog.

From the Odessa American:

KERMIT Two customers approach Kermit’s newest dining destination, not knowing the greeting they have in store.

“Two huddling in,” one staff member says to another.

As the customers open the door, the staff lets them know they are wanted.

“Welcome to Huddle House,” one employee says to the couple.

“Welcome to Huddle House,” another says … and another … and another.

Alan Brinker, director of operations for the Kent Companies, which owns the area Huddle House franchise, said the greetings are part of making sure that employees and customers have a good time in the restaurants.

“We welcome every guest, make sure they get acknowledged,” he said. “It’s a fun environment.”

And soon Odessa will be part of the environment. Brinker said the company plans to break ground on an Odessa location in October. He hopes to open the restaurant, which will likely be located in the West County Road area, in early 2011.

“It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think we could put at least two in Odessa and two in Midland,” he said.

The Kermit store, which opened June 3, is the second Huddle House location Kent has built in the Permian Basin. Brinker said it is part of a 20-restaurant development deal for the Atlanta-based chain in West Texas and eastern New Mexico.

The 24-hour store brought 40 jobs to Kermit, a town of around 5,700 located 45 miles west of Odessa. Brinker said that with a new Kent Kwik convenience store that opened next door, his company brought a total of 55 jobs to the area.

While the first Permian Basin Huddle House opened in Monahans in 2008 is just off Interstate 20 and close to several hotels, the Kermit location sits near the intersection of two state highways headed to places like Jal and Mentone. But Jim Carr, Huddle House director of franchising for Louisiana and points west, said it still made sense for an all-night restaurant.

“Kermit is just one of those grossly underserved markets,” he said. “There’s not a lot of resident population, but the transient population is very strong because of the oilfield.”

Alex Romo, an oil company worker from Kermit, was making his first trip to the Huddle House. He said its hours and its menu that offered breakfast lunch and dinner impressed him.

“We’re not used to having none of this,” he said. “I’ll probably come at night, too, with my family.”

Brinker expects to open around two locations a year. After coming to Odessa, he said cities like Crane, Fort Stockton and Big Spring make sense as future locations, along with more distant places like Lubbock, Levelland and Alamogordo, N.M.

Before the Monahans store opened, Huddle House’s closest location was south of Fort Worth in Joshua, more than 350 miles away. But while Kent looks to put more locations in West Texas, Carr said the company is working to bring its stores from Central Texas further west, to cities like Brownwood and Stephenville.

“We’re gradually working our way to fitting the two zones of Texas closer together,” he said.

Huddle House has 423 stores in 18 states, mostly in the Southeast and Midwest. Carr said the company has six locations in Texas, but plans to add five to eight more in 2010.

Carr said the company has been able to expand in tough economic times partly by keeping many of its meals under $6.

“We’re a value-pricing brand,” he said. “Our competitive set is restaurants that are open 24 hours and serve pretty much anything on the menu.”

Carr said the Monahans store is “doing well,” though it has seen difficult times attracting employees at points.

But Brinker said the Kermit location had hundreds of applicants before it opened. He said the company is boosted by incentives like medical benefits and 401(k) plans.

“I was a little concerned at first, but once we put up the sign that we were ‘now hiring,’ we were flooded with applicants,” he said.

The Kermit location also has new features. It is the first store with a new outside design that incorporates a new “knife and fork” logo, Brinker said.
“We finished drawing the front on a napkin with the builder on the phone,” he said.

The restaurant also has new equipment that has allowed it to introduce menu items Huddle House hasn’t previously had, Brinker said. A new heated holding cabinet allows it to take items like pot pie, beef stew and chicken and dumplings that are prepared and frozen in Atlanta and serve them as daily specials.

“It provides a very fresh, hot, home-cooked meal with minimal effort and great results,” he said.

But the Kermit location retains many of Huddle Houses favorites like the Southern Smothered —(I'm sorry. Would you eat this? - DK)

two sausage patties, hash browns, sausage gravy and cheddar cheese mixed together and topped with two scrambled eggs. Also popular is the Kitchen Sink Burger, featuring bacon, a fried egg, two cheeses, grilled onion and mushrooms.

Art Watson of Kermit has already been to Huddle House “four or five” times. He said his hamburger was “top notch” and the steak is “always good.”

“Especially on the weekend because everything is closed,” he said. “You can’t get nothing to eat nowhere except Sonic.”

“It’s real nice.”


Benjie said...

We just got one of these in Greenville, IL. I've enjoyed the tasty breakfasts and a filling burger.

Gazelle said...

Yum, sounds like good food! Yes, I would eat the biscuits and gravy but without the eggs please.

David Kirk said...

Benjie and Gazelle: I need to eat a lot less things myself, but I'm glad to finally have a 24-hour diner in this town.

jel said...

good to hear from ya David,

I have never hear of the place,

David Kirk said...

jel: Thanks for reading. Huddle House is like a little IHOP, with smaller omelettes ...

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