Chili’s Grill and Bar is to open its doors on Guam by mid-2007.

Brian K. Artero president and owner of Lonestar Steakhouse & Saloon and a group of investors incorporated as Pacific Restaurants LLC are the official franchisee of Chili’s for Guam with Artero as president. In and Aug. 15 interview with the Journal Artero would not name the other investors. Construction is set to start in November. He would not say specifically where the restaurant would be located only that it would be located in Tamuning.

The restaurant will be about 5 000 square feet. He said "It will incorporate some outside patio dining and possibly some late night bar activities." It will seat approximately 240 to 250 people and employ roughly 85 to 100 people.

Artero declined to disclose how much was being invested into getting the restaurant up and running but he did say it was more than $1 million. "It’s a big investment. We’re building a freestanding building. We’re bringing in FF&E "" furniture fixtures and equipment; we’re bringing the décor; we’re paving parking lots. It’s a considerable investment."

He said of the restaurant "There are other chains in the same [market] segment as Chili’s but they’re not as impactful as a Chili’s is "" eating and food and beverage is all about the five senses "" sight sound taste touch and smell and Chili’s inspires on all levels. It is a very exciting brand constantly reinvigorating itself constantly recreating menu items constantly staying abreast of any marketing trends that are going on. They are definitely the leader in that segment.

"Although the competitors are all good brands and all worthy competitors "" in my opinion Chili’s just had more sizzle. As a food and beverage entrepreneur I could bring in any brand but I wanted to get the brand that I was 100% passionate about that would not feel like work for me. Chili’s has been my all-time favorite concept. It was a dream for me to go after it; it was a dream for me to get it."

Chili’s is a casual dining American-themed restaurant with some Southwestern influences. "Some of its specialties are the double-basted baby back ribs. They have big mouth burgers where you can choose over 30 toppings. They have the best margaritas known to mankind. It’s called the El Presidente margarita."

He said "We try and stay away from trying to "theme" the restaurant. It speaks for itself. It provides a variety of fresh flavorful and innovative food and beverages inspired by the bold robust cuisine of the American Southwest."

The menu will be a mix of the U.S. domestic menu and possibly island dishes. "Since our foods and our likings are quite similar we may have some of the choices that the Hawaiian menu has. The Hawaiian menu has some items that are friendly to Guam’s taste buds "¦ such as the ahi grilled steak or the ahi grilled tuna sandwich. There’ll be a mix to both."

Artero said Chili’s is very responsive to market and regional influences. If Pacific Restaurants thought a local dish should be added he said "We’ll make our case to them and they’ll respond positively because it’s important to relate to the community."

Artero said Chili’s was not an easy brand to bring out to Guam. He had been approaching Chili’s since 2002 and the chain had responded by telling him it wasn’t interested in Guam as a market. "What I continued to do was share the news of the military activities happening on Guam "" nothing to do with the Marines moving over because we didn’t hear about anything from the Marines until 2006. Between 2002 and 2005 all of the news I shared with them was anything having to do with Guam’s tourism industry "" anything to do with the existing military improvements "" when they were upgrading the hangars at Andersen Air Force base; when they were working on the wharves; when they were putting assets into Guam and spending on Guam thereby sparking up the construction industry. Things like that I continued to share."

Once Pacific Restaurants was awarded the franchise Artero said that the Chili’s corporate office was very supportive "in the planning of the restaurant. Once we were selected we had numerous conference calls. They’ve been out to Guam. They’ve met with people. They’ve assessed the market. They’ve eaten at competitor restaurants as an orientation for them."

The Pacific Restaurants franchise is only for Guam. However Artero said "If there is an interest to do anything in Saipan then we would be the most likely candidate because of the fact that we’re already doing business with Chili’s. It means less resources committed to deal with one company. We have the franchise for Guam and this is what we pursued. At this time we don’t have any plans for expanding out of Guam. Guam is plenty and more than enough of a market for us."

Artero said that his involvement with Chili’s would be similar to his level of involvement with Lonestar where he supervises the management team. He believes the opening of a Chili’s would not affect Lonestar. "We live in such a small closed economy that every single restaurant is a competitor. I am confident Lonestar will stay at its current level of sales."

According to materials supplied by Artero Chili’s has more than 1 000 restaurants mostly located in the U.S. Parent company Brinker International based in Dallas Texas also oversees Romano’s Macaroni Grill and On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina.

The first Chili’s opened on March 13 1975 and the chain has locations in 49 U.S. states and 23 countries. On Aug. 3 2004 Chili’s opened its 1 000th restaurant.

According to the Chili’s Web site each of the Chili’s Grill & Bars identifies local charity groups to support and any funds raised remain in the local community. MBJ