The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

New York's “Little Italy” arrives in Ayr

SUCCESSFUL bar and family restaurant chain Frankie and Benny’s has arrived in Ayr with a bang.

(Picture shows Roddy McGill, general manager of Frankie and Benny's in Ayr).

Telephone enquiries started pouring in as soon as the new sign boards went up outside the building in Highfield Drive, just off the Whitletts Roundabout, both from prospective diners and from people looking for jobs, and business has been excellent since the opening almost two months ago.

Location is one factor behind this instant success, according to general manager Roddy McGill. With so many people driving past on there way into Ayr, visibility was never going to be a problem.

Being sited next to Travelodge, the second nearest budget hotel to Prestwick Airport, is an added bonus.

Especially as Travelodge doesn’t have its own restaurant, and displays Frankie and Benny’s menus in each of its bedrooms.

Travelodge guests can also be alerted in their rooms that their table is ready, as the hotel building is within range of the restaurant’s bleepers.

But location is just one ingredient in Frankie and Benny’s recipe for success. Even more important is the product.

“There has been nothing quite like this in Ayr until now, says Roddy McGill.”

A typical New York Italian diner of the 1950s has been faithfully recreated down to the last detail, offering a menu of favourite American food combined with traditional Italian family recipes, with recorded music of the era playing in the background and black and white photographs of gangsters, show business celebrities and sporting heroes decorating the walls.

The story behind the foundation of Frankie and Benny’s has become the stuff of legend.

Frankie Giuliani was 10 years old when he left Sicily with his parents and landed at Ellis Island, New York in 1924.

The family moved in with relatives in Brooklyn’s “Little Italy”, and within a year, they opened a restaurant.

Frankie went to high school, where he became friends with Benny, already a third-generation American.

When his father retired in 1953, Frankie invited Benny to join him in taking over the business, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There are Frankie and Benny’s outlets in England, but the brand has been particularly successful here in the West of Scotland, partly because of the significant number of families of Italian descent in this part of the country.

There are at present 12 outlets in Scotland, with two more new ones earmarked for Hamilton and East Kilbride, and five or six more in the pipeline.

General manager Roddy McGill (42) joined Frankie and Benny’s after many years experience and a family background in the licensed trade and catering sector.

Roddy was brought up between Galston and Newmilns, and his father was landlord of the “Black Bull” in Darvel.

He has pursued his career here in Scotland and in England, but sees his future now with the Frankie and Benny’s group, partly because of the culture of enthusiasm and self-belief that permeates the company, as well as its firm policy of promotion from within.

Roddy lives in Stewarton with his wife Catherine and son Ruairidh (4).

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