The company plans to add 15 to 18 units this year and next before "ramping it up," said CEO Bob Hartnett.
"People think (Houlihan's) is a lot larger than it is," Hartnett
"They have good feelings toward it.
Over the years they have generally done a pretty good job.
It's an interesting concept - I can't begin to tell you how many people have told me about their first experience at a Houlihan's
Everybody has a story to tell about it, even if they haven't been there in a while."
And that's why Hartnett
is at the chain.
A longtime veteran of various franchise and restaurant concepts - he
has been a franchisee and ran Denver-based Einstein Brothers Bagels
until it was sold in 2001 - he
was sold on the franchise's potential for growth in a tough market.
CEO Bob Hartnett hopes the good feelings customers have for Houlihan's will spur growth.
The first bankruptcy was filed in 1991, the second in 2002 shortly after Hartnett joined Houlihan's after being recruited by the chain's lender, GE Capital, in a one-year effort to restructure the chain.
stayed, and in 2002 was part of a group that bought controlling interest in the company.
proceeded to modernize the concept and return it to its edgy, irreverent roots while keeping its focus on made-from-scratch food.
"Some people love it, some hate it," Hartnett
"We're very serious about our food," Hartnett
said, "but we don't take ourselves too seriously."
Not everything has gone smoothly since the company emerged from bankruptcy.
Some stores closed, including ballyhooed moves into markets where previous stores had been shuttered.
And same-store sales began sputtering late last year amidst the market downturn.
But the company hasn't put a damper on its growth prospects, and Hartnett
believes it will be a stronger company when the economy improves.
This, too, shall pass," Hartnett