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Schlotzsky's hopes to break site jinx

Deli to open at corner where two restaurants have gone under

Rob Bartlett is pretty sure the corner isn't cursed.

Still, there's no denying that restaurants in the building at the corner of Biddle Road and Stevens Street haven't had an easy time.

In the seven years since it was built, the building has hosted two drive-through burger joints that went out of business, Hot'N'Now and Double Dee Burgers.

But Bartlett, who plans to open a Schlotzsky's Deli there next month, isn't concerned. We don't think there's anything wrong with the corner, he says. We're real pleased with the visibility.

He's banking on a new sit-down dining area -- and good food that fills a niche -- to make the most of the spot's spectacular traffic counts. His research found that 20,000-25,000 vehicles pass by on Biddle Road each day while about 18,000 go by on Stevens.

As far as Hot'N'Now and Double Dee's failures there, he notes that Hot'N'Now failed nationwide and that Double Dee's was a smaller chain. Both also tried to compete in a crowd of burger places.

We're a different deal, Bartlett says. We're a sit-down restaurant and the quality of our food is immense.

Schlotzsky's, a worldwide chain with 750 restaurants, tries to fill the niche between fast food and casual dining and focuses heavily on lunch customers.

That's why Bartlett is keeping the drive-through, to reach the lunch crowd wanting to get something beyond fast food on the go.

I would say 60-65 percent of (the chain's) business is for lunch, says Bartlett, a former regional manager for the chain, and we're in a great business district. There are tons of people around here during the day.

Schlotzsky's menu includes hot and cold deli sandwiches (with bread made from scratch daily) as well as gourmet individual pizzas. He says the average customer spends $5-$6, making it an affordable option for people who eat out for lunch.

We don't just want you once a month, he says. Everyone has $5 for lunch, that's pretty much the minimum amount you'd budget.

We can serve you within five minutes, you're going to spend $5 and get good food. We feel really confident that will fill a niche that isn't filled here right now.

Schlotzsky's is based in Austin, Texas, and about 250 of the 750 restaurants are in that state. But there are now locations nationwide, and in Australia, Canada and China.

It's just now starting to expand in the West, says Barnett.

In Oregon, Schlotzsky's have opened in Klamath Falls, Bend, Eugene, Salem, Tualatin and Portland and six to eight more are expected to open soon. Barnett plans to open a second one in Medford and one in Grants Pass.

The Biddle Road restaurant is expected to open about June 15 and will employ about 40 people. Bartlett and his wife, Cindy, will be there operating it daily, at least in the beginning. Two Medford attorneys, John Ferris and Bob Hunter, are partners in the restaurant.

Bartlett says they'll spend close to $1 million on equipment and renovations to the restaurant. They are adding indoor seating for about 100 people, outdoor seating for 20-25 and about 80 parking spaces -- some where Spicer's Restaurant was located before it moved to the Crater Lake Plaza. You will be amazed at what it looks like, he says. We want to get this corner looking good as fast as we can.

Schlotzsky's Deli co-owner Rob Bartlett says high traffic counts, combined with indoor seating, will make his business a success. The deli -- which will also feature a drive-through window -- is scheduled to open in June.