Keeping it Fresh

Bertucci's Corporation is aggressively remodeling its restaurant chain for the modern, sustainable consumer

The brick oven at each Bertucci's location remains the centerpiece of the brand.

At a Glance

Company headquarters
Northborough, MA

Construction department employees

Average remodel duration
14–18 days

Current locations

At the center of each of Bertucci’s Corporation’s full-service Italian restaurants, which operate along the East Coast from New Hampshire to Virginia, is a massive, roaring brick oven where most of the food is prepared. These ovens are part of the restaurants’ signature rustic Italian aesthetic, but, according to senior director of construction Kevin Bakas, it’s an aesthetic that needed to be revamped. “Our food was incredible, but our buildings looked tired,” he says. In response, the firm has launched a major remodeling effort focused on updated décor and a renewed focus on sustainability.

To bring its image into the modern era, Bertucci’s Corporation is updating the paints and colors, the artwork, the awnings, lighting, seating, and landscaping at its individual locations, and it’s doing so at a rapid clip. The firm began its efforts in 2011, refurbishing 22 restaurants, which was almost as many as it had done from 2007 to 2010 combined. By mid-2012, the company was already on track to remodel another 28 before the end of the year.

The challenge when it comes to remodeling, Bakas says, is working around so many different floor plans and footprints. The company fits its restaurants into a variety of freestanding structures and ‘in-line’ spaces (such as those in shopping malls or outlet centers). “It’s always a challenge to maintain the overall look of what we’re trying to portray,” Bakas says. “You can’t just add paint and décor; you have to really study each individual location and never interfere with the theater of our famous brick oven.”

Bertucci’s is refitting locations with new lighting, seats, and artwork for a modern look.

In addition to the remodeling, Bertucci’s Corporation has recently embarked on a capital improvement program. The directive from the company’s senior executives is to be more sustainable, and to that end, Bakas’s team has incorporated a number of green elements into the stores, including sunscreen shades, tankless boilers, energy-efficient lighting, and energy-efficient electronically commutated motors (ECMs) on walk-in refrigerators. The return on this investment has been significant: the LED lighting brought Bertucci’s Corporation at least $100,000 in rebates in 2012 alone, and the lighting plus the ECM-equipped refrigerators will save the company an estimated 20 percent in energy costs.

Bakas’s department is composed of himself, chief development officer James Quackenbush, project manager Greg Pippet, and real estate and construction specialist Christine Francis Barta. Bakas says the team is able to achieve so much because of loyal vendor support. “I’ve worked with many of the same firms for 15 years, and that essentially allows me to have the equivalent of 300 employees,” he says. His core group of vendors includes AFA Fire; Allen & Burke Construction, LLC; Amano Flooring Tile Pro Plus; Baynes Electric Supply Co., Inc.; Donavan Electrical Construction Company, Inc.; Durosol Awnings, Inc.; GRI Mech Pride Building Specialists; HIM Mechanical Systems; Elge Plumbing & Heating; May FoodService Equipment & Design Corp.; Medford Wellington Service; National Sign; Raggs Inc.; and T. J. Tile.

Even with such support, though, Bertucci’s Corporation isn’t interested in expanding for the sake of expansion, which is why it continues to concentrate on remodeling. “The company’s overall business philosophy has remained the same,” Bakas says. “We’re not going to focus on building hundreds of new restaurants; we’re going to focus on keeping all of our restaurants current. It’s not about building new; it’s about taking care of your own existing asset portfolio. I’ve been here for 15 years, and that’s the reason I stay.

Kevin Bakas

Meet Kevin Bakas

Where did you go to school?
I came out of the US Marine Corps as an aviation power plant mechanic. At Wentworth Institute in Boston, I took certificate courses in HVAC and construction-project management and estimating, to name just a few.

What was your first construction job?
It was at Burger King Corp. After working as a facilities manager, I became a site developer and engineer in 1989.

How did you wind up working for Bertucci’s Corporation?
I replied to an ad for a facilities manager for a New England restaurant company that owned Chili’s and On the Border. It bought Bertucci’s and sold the others, so I stayed with Bertucci’s

What personal goals do you have in your current role?
I’m always looking to grow the brand and find ways for it to become more relevant, find ways to save energy [and bring more to our bottom line], and make my way up the ladder so [that] I can give my three children what they need to succeed. Supporting charities is also important to the Bertucci’s team. With support from our vendors, we feed one homeless shelter a month and support Toys for Tots and Cops For Kids With Cancer. There are a lot of people that need help, and I hope we do this to infinity and beyond. ABQ