It has been not quite two years since we reported that the owners of Ben’s Chili Bowl were looking to open franchise locations of their
legendary greasy spoon and had begun to consider locations around the region.
The expansion effort continues, as the Washington City Paper reported that the restaurant’s owners recently purchased a former clothing store at the corner of H and 10th streets Northeast.
Kamal Ali, one of chili bowl founder Ben Ali’s three sons, said he and his brother Nizam have been working with a real estate consultant and looking at the demographics and available real estate in a handful of neighborhoods. He said they’ve settled on H Street and Clarendon, in Arlington, as places where they would like to be.
“Clarendon is really nice. We are looking at that area hard and trying to identify opportunities there,” Ali said.
Ali said he thinks the family might open some additional restaurants of their own before licensing any franchises. “What we
decided somewhere along the way is to get a couple company-owned stores up first so we would have a better prototype,” he said. ”This way we can say, here’s what it actually costs, here’s what the sales could be.”
But Ali and his brother are not in any rush. Their family has been in business for 52 years and Ben’s is probably Washington’s strongest brand; the restaurant has become a rite of passage for District politicians. Barack Obama ate a half-smoke there before he was even inaugurated. French President Nicolas Sarkozy also stopped in.
Before he even considers opening a restaurant on H Street, Ali said, he wants to talk to residents and neighbors about what they would like to see there.
“No matter what happens, I think it’s going to be a good investment,” he said.