SYLVAN LAKE — A local restaurant may have found the recipe for success in this lakeside community.
Smuggler’s Inn, which opened in 2005, recently dedicated much of its space to a more casual eatery called Riccardo’s Ristorante. Smuggler’s continues to occupy the second floor of the building at 5000 Lakeshore Dr., with Riccardo’s now below.
“We gutted the lower floor and fully redecorated it in a five-week period and opened on June 28,” said Rick Piegsa, one of a half-dozen shareholders behind the business.
Offering Italian cuisine and emphasizing affordable family dining, Riccardo’s has met with immediate favour, he said.
“It’s been our busiest July and August since we opened five years ago.”
Piegsa said Smuggler’s is perceived as a fine-dining restaurant, which made it tough to fill 140 seats over two floors, especially in the winter months.
Splitting the space between two restaurants, each with a distinct theme and entrance, has broadened the customer range and increased volumes.
“It was a dramatic change,” said Piegsa, adding that it’s still too soon to declare the change a complete success.
“The true test will be the winter, of course.”
Among the renovations undertaken was the removal of the window shutters on both floors, which has brightened the premises considerably.
Smuggler’s now opens at 5 p.m. daily to cater to the dinner crowd, while Riccardo’s operates from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The two restaurants have their own patios but share one kitchen — which presented logistical challenges, said Piegsa.
“How do you take an existing restaurant and incorporate another full menu out of the same kitchen?”
Signage for the new restaurant is still to be installed, but people seem to be finding their way inside without it. That increased traffic is not only good for Riccardo’s and its sister restaurant, but also for other businesses in the area, said Piegsa.
Smuggler’s Inn is based on a popular Calgary restaurant that’s operated for decades. Bert Messier, another partner in the Sylvan Lake business, arranged to license the name and concept.