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Businessman takes over perennial Museum District eatery

Michael Thompson December 23, 2015 11

Steven Gooch is stepping in as the new owner of The Franklin Inn off of Monument Avenue. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Steven Gooch is stepping in as the new owner of The Franklin Inn off of Monument Avenue. Photos by Michael Thompson.

A Museum District restaurant is changing owners.

The Franklin Inn at 800 Cleveland St. is being sold to Steven Gooch, a local businessman who is purchasing the company from Bedros Bandazian of Bandazian & Co.

Neither side would disclose the purchase price.

Bandazian, 77, put the 4-year-old restaurant up for sale earlier this year. He said he wanted to sell for personal and business reasons. The 1,000-square-foot restaurant property was built in 1922.

“I had many suitors who wanted it,” Bandazian said. “It’s like a mini “Cheers” sort of place.”

The Franklin Inn will be Gooch’s first restaurant and the first business he owns in Richmond. He said he is encouraged by the fact that, comparatively speaking, there few restaurants near The Franklin Inn and most of its patrons reach it by walking.

Bandazian opened the current Franklin Inn in 2011.

Bedros Bandazian opened the current Franklin Inn in 2011.

“It’s a bit of an oasis in a restaurant desert,” Gooch said.

The property opened originally as The Franklin Inn sometime in the 1930s. The venue saw different operators and incarnations in the years that followed, including more recently The Corner Cafe and Cleveland Street Deli.

Bandazian opened it as The Franklin Inn in 2011 and sought to put the property back in touch with its past. Historic decor was installed, and items like Senate bean soup and house-made corned beef were put on the menu.

That was part of the draw for Gooch.

“I liked the historical connections,” he said.

Gooch, 55, said he plans to maintain and build on what Bandazian did.

“I don’t want to be trendy,” he said. “We’re trying to very much recreate what a neighborhood bar would be like in the ’30s.”

He said he plans to expand the menu and eventually bring on a new chef. High-end scotches and bourbons are being added, and the wine list will also get an upgrade. Gooch said there hasn’t been any turnover in staff since he has taken over The Franklin Inn.

Gooch’s last job was as CFO for Teleflex Aerospace, and the Chesterfield resident is part of an investment group called Linden Tree Capital, which is helping with some short-term financing.

He said while food may not be his forte, he’ll rely on his business acumen and help from staff to succeed in the competitive restaurant industry.

“I do have the business skills to put out a consistently high-quality product,” he said. “I can at least maintain what was there, and with my background I can certainly hope to improve it.”

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11 Comments »

  1. Laura Smith December 23, 2015 at 11:48 am - Reply

    How exciting! We love the ambiance of our little neighborhood restaurant/pub. Can’t wait for a new, extended drink and food menu. Welcome to the neighborhood, Steven!

    • Steven Gooch February 1, 2016 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      Thank you Laura.

  2. Brian Noel December 24, 2015 at 8:15 am - Reply

    Excited about the high end bourbons. Will be curious to see the line-up. It’s a unique little place.

    • Steven Gooch February 1, 2016 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      Hi Brian –

      Just added Blanton’s to Johh J Bowman, Bulleits 10 year, and Angels Envy when we can find it.

  3. Jay Nate December 24, 2015 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Does Mr. Gooch have advisers on hand that have experience in the restaurant and food service space?

    He’s just taken over the business and is already planning an expanded menu and new chef (does the current chef know this? LOL)?

    A restaurateur knows that a menu that is too big can become a liability more than an asset. Think of all of your favorite neighborhood spots and I’d bet they have a relatively small menu that they execute really well. Even McDonald’s realized the value of streamlining their offerings.

    That’s not to say his plan is a bad one. It’s only a warning to be diligent and thoughtful in the menu expansion.

    There’s no such thing as too many bourbons so he’s got that going for him!

    • Steven Gooch February 1, 2016 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      Appreciate your concern Jay. I have talked with many folks with extensive experience in the restaurant business, and will continue to do so.

  4. Beth Sykes December 28, 2015 at 7:31 am - Reply

    Looking forward to it. As you noted, we residents like having a local place West of the Boulevard to walk.

  5. Charles Frankenhoff December 28, 2015 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Hopefully the food will improve. It started good and cheap, and then became expensive and mediocre. I’d love to start going back, it’s a great location for me, and I’d gladly go at least once a week, but it needs actually good food.

    • Steven Gooch February 1, 2016 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      Charles – Our new chef has started and people seem to really like what is coming out of our kitchen. Hopefully you will give The Franklin Inn another try. I think you will like what you find.

  6. Brett Hunnicutt January 8, 2016 at 11:58 am - Reply

    I agree with Charles. I like the Dot’s Back Inn neighborhood bar formula better. Cheap and delicious, and make money on customer volume and alcohol sales. I paid $16 for a mediocre crab cake sandwich about a month back at Franklin. That’s not a sustainable model. I look forward to trying out this new version. Good luck!

    • Steven Gooch February 1, 2016 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      Brett-

      The crab cake sandwich is returning at $14. I know it may sound high compared to say, a turkey sandwich, but we have to pay almost 4 times as much for crab as we do for turkey or ham. Since we use only as much breading and other ingredients as needed to hold the cake together, it is almost all crab. And although the ingredient price is so much higher, the sandwich price is not proportionately. Hope you give it a try again. And we also have many options at $10 and under.

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