Landowner in Lincoln courting food chain

Posted Jan. 03, 2011, at 9:01 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:24 a.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — A town landowner who helped bring a Tim Hortons franchise to Route 6 has been trying to lure a KFC-Taco Bell store to an adjoining parcel, but doesn’t expect to see anything happen soon, if at all, he said Monday.

“That Tim Hortons was a four-year project,” said Thomas Gardner of W.T. Gardner and Sons Inc. “I am hoping Taco Bell will come in, but those folks, in this economy, do not move fast. It takes a lot of numbers and persuasion to get a corporation of that size to invest $1.5 million [the typical price of such a franchise] in a small town of 5,000.”

“Can I say that they are coming? No, not as of today,” Gardner said Monday.

Tim Hortons opened in late November on Gardner land at 202 West Broadway. The restaurant was due to open in August, but problems securing a traffic permit from the Maine Department of Transportation caused a delay, its owners have said.

The new franchise adds to the small number of fast-food chain restaurants in Lincoln, the most well-known being a Subway and a McDonald’s. Lincoln has about a dozen restaurants and cafes, including Gillmor’s — whose owners also operate a combination carwash and ice cream parlor opposite Tim Hortons — Wing Wah, Timber House, Pat’s Pizza, JJ’s Pizza and Subs, and Shooters.

Lincoln is the service hub of the Lincoln Lakes region, which is made up of about 10 towns about an hour north of Bangor along Interstate 95.

The lot adjoining Tim Hortons is about the same size as the Hortons lot and already has been fully prepared for construction work. Gardner has spoken with several restaurant chains about possibly locating there and signed several confidentiality agreements.

He only spoke of the possible KFC-Taco Bell deal because that franchise didn’t require a confidentiality agreement, he said. A Taco Bell already had been in Lincoln once, years ago. A company representative did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

Taco Bell has a dozen stores in Maine. A subsidiary of Yum! Brands Inc., Taco Bell advertises itself as the nation’s leading Mexican-style quick service restaurant chain, according to its website, tacobell.com. Taco Bell serves more than 36.8 million consumers each week in nearly 5,600 restaurants in the United States, the site states.

Retail franchises, Gardner said, don’t come to a town just because they are desired there. Their operators examine many factors before opening in a new location, including the location’s traffic patterns, population, number of people served within the area, likelihood for future growth and so on.

The process of opening a franchise, therefore, takes time.

“All we are doing,” Gardner said, “is exploring the option. It’s all in the very, very infant stages.”

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