MANCHESTER, NH – Lenny and Nancy Abreu are on their way to Philadelphia, the first official leg of their journey as owner/operators of New Hampshire’s first Golden Corral buffet restaurant.
Intensive training begins Tuesday for the couple who will return well-versed in the ways of the well-established Golden Corral brand. Already successful in the ways of making a restaurant work, they opened Nancy’s Diner in Nashua back in 2013, a retro family-style diner where regulars return for comfort food and the friendly vibe.
But for Lenny Abreu, the progression — from fast-food training manager and unit manager to diner owner and operator, and now franchisee — is more than natural.
“It’s unbelievable,” says Lenny, who for three years has been working toward becoming New Hampshire’s first Golden Corral owner. “I’ve always loved the Golden Corral and the whole concept of the buffet, and it just so happened that I reached out just as the opportunity opened up here in New Hampshire. We’re beyond excited.”
The Abreus, along with business partner Steve Leary, former owner of Thomas Ford in Massachusetts, see this as a golden opportunity.
“It’s great food for everyone, no matter what you like to eat,” Lenny says. “Nancy and I eat totally differently, and so if she likes it and I like it, it’s great. It appeals to every taste test out there. And if you want to start off with dessert, you can go for that.”
A tried and true formula doesn’t hurt when launching an eatery, but it’s especially helpful in the Queen City, which is known for its range of dining out options. Golden Corral has been around for 46 years. It’s known for family fare at lower price points, and has deep roots in Southern hospitality. Reported revenue in 2018 was $1.733 billion across 489 restaurants in 41 states. New Hampshire makes 490.
Lenny says he loves everything about the restaurant, from the focus on fresh-made foods to its commitment to community.
Part of the corporate culture of Golden Corral includes serving free meals to active duty and retired veterans — according to the Golden Corral website, they have collectively served 5.4 million free meals to military and veterans and contributed more than $15 million to Disabled American Veterans during the company’s annual Military Appreciation Night event.
Once their training is completed, Lenny and Nancy will be making the rounds in Manchester, introducing themselves to the business community and reaching out to veterans organizations, and hiring.
“We’re going to extend invitations for our ‘friends and family night,” says Lenny, a soft opening that should be sometime in March of 2020.
For those who hear franchise and think “cookie-cutter” or “pre-packaged,” there will be none of that at Lenny and Nancy’s place.
“Yes, it’s a franchise, but it’s our restaurant, and we take great pride in serving nothing but the best to our guests,” Lenny says.
“There will be over 160 food items to choose from. The salad bar is enormous, and we have our own butchers in house. Everything will be cut fresh,” says Lenny, who notes that before it was a buffet, Golden Corral was a steakhouse, and steak is still featured on the menu. Also, fresh baked goods and desserts will be baked daily.
The decision to bring Golden Corral to Manchester took a little deliberation, although Nancy made the final call.
“We were looking at Nashua and Londonderry, but I really wanted to come here,” says Nancy. “This is an ideal location, with all the shopping along South Willow Street.”
Lenny says once he met with Brady Sullivan and saw the layout, it was clear that the happy trail leading to New Hampshire’s first Golden Corral was Exit 1 off I-293 at the Shoppes at South Willow.
“It’s a brand new building and there’s a traffic light right out front,” says Lenny. “And the decor is going to be what’s called the Gateway version, I think it’s only the second Gateway ever built. Instead of the old cafeteria-style, this has the brick front, the marquee, and a brick fireplace inside, and a beautiful buffet area with copper accents. It’s gorgeous,” says Lenny.
By Monday afternoon Lenny and Nancy were packed and driving from here to there, tying up some loose paperwork ends in anticipation of the road trip to Philly. They stopped by their Nashua diner to say a final farewell, for now, as they head off into a future that, while still taking shape, could not be more exciting to them.
“In all these years in the food industry, there are two things I’ve learned — whether I was running a franchise or my own place — if you come into my restaurant, you’re coming into my house. Our guests always come first. We treat everyone with kindness and respect, like kings and queens,” Lenny says.
And the other thing he’s learned?
“Without Nancy by my side, I’d probably be at Market Basket bagging groceries. She keeps me on my toes and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”