Breakfast war brewing in Bonita Springs

Posted on October 25, 2011


By Jessica DeMattia

They might not be flinging pancakes at each other, but there is a breakfast war brewing along Old 41 Road in Bonita Springs.

Two breakfast/lunch establishments, the Old 41 Restaurant and the Bernwood Grille, are competing for business. With the tourist season approaching, both restaurants are finding clever ways to keep people in the door.

Old 41, which has been open since January 2008, has time on its side. Owner Tony Backos says the restaurant is known for their Philly cheesesteaks.

“Our Philly cheesesteaks are just like home for some people,” Backos says.

Backos, a Philadelphia native, took over the business that was originally run by his cousin.

Since Backos took over, Old 41 has seen steady business year round. Even during the summer months, Backos says his servers have done okay.

The food quality has kept people coming in for more than three years; so has the service. Customers can expect their omelet to be made just the way they like it. They can expect a fresh cup of coffee when they sit down.

It also helped that Old 41 was one of only two restaurants of its kind in Bonita Springs.

However, this past May, a new competitor opened up just down the road.

T he Bernwood Grille is owned and operated by two former waiters who realized what they wanted from the business.

Owner George Collins says customers are coming for his pancakes more than his sandwiches.

“We’re still seeing more business for breakfast than lunch,” Collins says, “but that’s how the business works sometimes.”

Collins says that there are definitely more options for people at lunch than at breakfast.

“It doesn’t worry me,” he says, “we still have our people too. Competition only makes us better.”

When Bernwood Grille opened in mid-May, many people predicted it would be gone by the end of the summer. Now that the busy months are coming, Bernwood is starting to look like legitimate competition for Old 41.

What the Bernwood Grille has that Old 41 lacks is ambiance. The radio plays at Bernwood Grille. There are decorations on the wall. Every table has its own place mat and a table decoration. Every meal is served with a melon slice.

Old 41 has no place mats, no music, and no decorations. There is no melon with the meal. The silence of the restaurant makes it easier for a customer to eavesdrop on another table’s conversation. Aside from newspapers available for purchase at the register, Old 41 doesn’t provide a welcoming atmosphere. Customers have used the word tense to describe it.

A third restaurant, Randy’s, opened at the same time as Bernwood Grille, and located behind Old 41. Randy’s differed from both restaurants because they were primarily a seafood restaurant that served breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, Randy’s doors have already shut, overwhelmed by competition in two facets.

With snowbirds returning and golfers coming to get deals at different courses, both owners expect business to increase. Once the holidays roll around, both businesses expect to steady out until Christmas.

Both Bernwood Grille and Old 41 Restaurant are open 7 days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Who’s making your pancakes?

Posted in: Jessica DeMattia