|Number of locations||46 (2011)|
|Parent||American Blue Ribbon Holdings, LLC|
Bakers Square Restaurant & Pies (also known as Bakers Square) is a casual dining restaurant chain in the United States. Known for its pies, Bakers Square also offers full breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. The chain is owned by American Blue Ribbon Holdings. As of July 2011, there were 46 locations.
Bakers Square began in December 1969 with a restaurant called "Mrs. C's" in Des Moines, Iowa, that became popular for its pies. Pillsbury purchased Mrs. C's around that time, renamed it "Poppin' Fresh Pies", and opened additional locations. VICORP, owners of the Village Inn restaurant chain, purchased Poppin' Fresh Pies from Pillsbury in 1983 and renamed the chain Bakers Square.
Bakers Square restaurants are primarily found in the Upper Midwest. Except for the Des Moines area, Bakers Square and Village Inn operate in separate markets without overlap. The original Mrs. C's restaurant, on Merle Hay Road in Des Moines, remained in business as a Bakers Square until it closed on April 2, 2008, as parent company VICORP filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2009, American Blue Ribbon Holdings, a company owned by Fidelity National Financial and Newport Global Advisors, acquired the assets of VICORP, including Village Inn and Bakers Square.
In late 1993, VICORP acquired the right to a small Florida chain called Angel’s diner. They acquired this from Eric A. Holm. Unfortunately he had also sold the rights to Golden Corral and VICORP was forced to pay Golden Corral $1M to secure the exclusive rights. The intent was to convert under performing Village Inn and Bakers Square units to this new concept. After building 7 units, VICORP realized that the concept was not economically viable and wrote off $11M on the venture. During this time frame, Eric Holm filed for personal bankruptcy.
On April 3, 2008, VICORP filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code. VICORP closed 56 company-owned restaurants as a result of the move, leaving a total of 343 Village Inn and Bakers Square locations. Village Inn restaurants are found in the Midwest states such as Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, and Nebraska, the Western United States, Texas, Virginia, and Florida.
Bakers Square once had a large presence in California with over 90 locations and competed directly with Marie Callender's, Coco's Bakery, and Carrows restaurants. Bakers Square entered the California market when its parent company acquired the Sambo's chain in October 1984. Many Sambo's locations were converted to Bakers Square restaurants and the ones that weren't were sold to other chains including Denny's.
VICORP's Bakers Square concept flourished in the Golden State through the early 2000s. However, the declining economy began taking its toll on the restaurant industry and by 2005, profit margins began to decline. Bakers Square restaurants began closing rural and suburban California locations as leases expired. Those that remained open were not remodeling as were other chains and the business continued to decline.
By February 2009, more than 80 California locations had closed. Most locations were shuttered and are vacant today while a few locations around the Los Angeles area converted to Du-par's Restaurant & Bakery or Polly's Pies. The last location in operation in Southern California was in San Diego. This Bakers Square was located on hotel property and was required to continue operations until a new lessee was secured; this was the result of an agreement between VICORP and the hotel chain (formerly Holiday Inn). The restaurant was unique in that it featured a Bakers Pub with separate entrance from the outside and an interior entrance. Patrons could enjoy a mixed drink and order their favorite menu item from Bakers Square. It was speculated this location had once been a Village Inn because the sign outside was shaped in the same fashion as that which is found at the sister restaurant. The location is now Du-par's and the pub became Du-par's Pub.
In addition, VICORP closed its Los Angeles County pie production facility, located in Santa Fe Springs. Two such facilities are still operating in Oak Forest, IL, and Chaska, MN. These facilities, formerly VICOM, now 'Legendary Baking,' produce 18 million pies per year for Bakers Square, Village Inn, and J. Horner's, a food service and retail line.
In March of 2009, four Bakers Square locations in the San Francisco Bay Area were acquired by Shari's Restaurants. These locations continued operating under the Bakers Square name for eight months. An agreement between VICORP and Shari's necessitated that until signs were changed and interior remodeling completed, the restaurants would continue offer all Bakers Square menu selections including the pies. Under Shari's ownership, these restaurants operated 24 hours a day. Thus, during this period, patrons could enjoy their favorite pie anytime day or night. After the name change in October 2009, a new Shari's menu was unveiled. Prior to the acquisition, Shari's operated two locations in Northern California. Following the conversions of the four Bay Area units, the chain had vastly expanded its pie menu causing speculation that VICOM was now supplying Shari's with their pies.
VICORP also ceased operations in Michigan, where it once had a concentration of Bakers Square restaurants.
It is not known whether plans call for expansion of the Village Inn concept into these markets, although it is speculated this could occur within California through franchisees. It is also believed that as Bakers Square continues to rebound under its new ownership, units may once again be found in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco which had once been very profitable markets for the chain.
Locations in the Chicago area have all been remodeled to include such features as new pie displays, tables, chairs, booths, lighting, wall hangings and fireplaces. These newly remodeled locations offer a modern, comfortable and relaxing dining experience. It is evident that the chain is rebounding under its new ownership by American Blue Ribbon Holdings, LLC. In March 2011, the chain opened its first new location in more than a decade in Woodridge, IL. The building was formerly a Max & Erma's restaurant, a sister concept.
- "Jennifer Sanning to Lead Marketing for American Blue Ribbon Holdings’ Restaurant Brands". American Blue Ribbon Holdings. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
- Boeckman, Joanne (2008-04-03). "Original shop in Bakers Square chain is closed, along with second in Des Moines". The Des Moines Register.
- FundingUniverse.com. "VICORP Restaurants, Inc., Company History". Retrieved 2007-02-04.
- Milstead, David (2008-04-03). "Bankrupt Village Inn shutting down local restaurants". Rocky Mountain News.
- VICORP Restaurants. "Find a Village Inn Location". Retrieved 2008-04-03.