By Adam Smith
The long-dormant Back Yard Burgers building at the northeast corner of Athens-Limestone Crossings will soon be home to an International House of Pancakes.
The new restaurant, being developed by Birmingham-based Cox Developments, will be slated to open by early spring and will employ 35 to 40 workers.
Developer Philip Cox said his business had opened several Back Yard Burgers restaurants in the Birmingham and Atlanta markets, but were not associated with the shuttered Athens location. He said the new restaurant will be Cox Development’s first venture with the IHOP brand.
“It’s known as ‘America’s dinner table,’ and it serves a good (demographic) cross-section,” he said. “It’s wholesome food, and I think that area needed a breakfast representative.”
Cox predicts the IHOP will fare better than the former Back Yard Burgers because it’s a sit-down establishment, as opposed to a restaurant that also relies on drive-thru service.
“It’s kind of far off the beaten path for a drive-thru,” he said. “But with a restaurant like (IHOP) you don’t mind detouring 200 yards off the main thoroughfare.”
Cox, who is opening the venture with his brother, Stewart Cox, said work on the building has been ongoing. The new IHOP will be slightly larger than the old Back Yard Burgers because the old outdoor patio has been enclosed to allow for additional seating area.
Cox said his company chose to renovate the existing building instead of starting fresh because the layout and the presence of the existing hood system allowed for a cost savings.
He said if the new restaurant proves successful, Cox Developments would keep Athens in mind for future developments.
“The (Athens area) is in high demand, and the city is growing,” he said. “We like the wholesome values and the family appeal of the Athens area. It’s a dynamite combination.”