Bennigan’s Franchising Co. on Thursday opened its first company-owned restaurant since the heritage brand filed for bankruptcy and closed hundreds of units in July 2008.

Bennigan’s opened the new 4,200-square-foot location in Appleton, Wisconsin. The restaurant features a new logo and signage, a centerpiece bar with 18 beers on tap, 180 seats and entertainment options, such as low-tech dartboards and high-tech Wii bowling as well as interactive table kiosks with pay-at-table technology.

David Goronkin, president and chief executive of Dallas-based Bennigan’s Franchising since April 2009, said: “It has a completely new look and feel. We had to make the Bennigan’s brand relevant for the 21st Century. … The only sacred cow was to keep the name.”

The menu features new items in the salad, sandwich and entrée sections but retains such signature dishes as the Monte Cristo sandwich. “We want to be known for having “American fare with Irish hospitality,” Goronkin said.

Bennigan’s Franchising Co. acquired the Bennigan’s brand in 2008, after parent S&A Restaurant Corp., a division of Metromedia Restaurant Group of Plano, Texas, and affiliated companies filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation and closed about 240 company units, including both Bennigan’s and Steak & Ale.

Working with Warren Ellish and the team at Ellish Marketing Group, Bennigan’s developed an enhanced brand positioning, conducted consumer research, launched a new corporate identity, forged significant menu development and testing and included franchisee input all along the way.

“We have forged strong relationships with our franchise owners and have partnered with our franchise advisory board every step of the way, from raising the bar on operating standards to repositioning our concept for a strong future,” Goronkin said. “This new prototype captures all aspects of our new direction and we’re very excited to be growing again.”

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