Seasoned fries, big burgers, chicken wings and milkshakes will soon be served up in Citrus Heights at a new drive-thru restaurant on Auburn Boulevard, if everything goes as planned.
Local Franchisee Ben Aibuedefe told The Sentinel his new Checkers drive-thru is planned for the corner of Grand Oaks and Auburn Boulevards, next to the Fireside Lanes bowling alley. He said the location will likely be around 1,000 square feet in size and won’t have any indoor seating, but will have a walk-up window and a few outdoor seats — a typical setup seen at Checkers around the country.
The Florida-based restaurant chain has over 800 locations nationwide, but this will be the first in the Sacramento area. The new restaurant is part of a regional expansion of the Checkers brand to the Sacramento area and Aibuedefe said he’s hopeful to add more franchise locations in the region down the road. The company previously announced plans that it was seeking to open 26 restaurants in the Sacramento area.
Originally from Nigeria, Aibuedefe came to the United States in his twenties and now lives in Roseville. The 57-year-old said he ran a gas station business for the past 12 years, but had his eye on opening a restaurant all along.
“I always wanted to go into fast food, but I wanted the right fit,” the franchisee said in a phone interview with The Sentinel on Friday. “I just wanted to get away from the gas station business and focus on something different.”
As part of a search for a spot in three cities in the Sacramento valley, he said the vacant spot at 7911 Auburn Blvd. was identified as a “great location” with close proximity to his home. He also said Citrus Heights stood out as a well-managed city with “plans to keep improving the infrastructure.”
Aibuedefe said he’s currently hired a civil engineer to work on the site plan, but couldn’t promise an opening date due to unknowns about the project.
“We would have loved to open by the end of the year, but I’m not committed to that until I see how the permitting goes,” he said, adding that city staff have been “very helpful” so far.
Citrus Heights Senior Planner Casey Kempenaar told The Sentinel preliminary discussion about the new Checkers restaurant had taken place, but said an application has not yet been submitted to the city. He said the drive-thru feature will require a use permit, and a design review permit could also be needed, “depending on size.”
Once permits are acquired, Aibuedefe is confident his new restaurant could pop up within six weeks, due to the company’s new “modular” format that allows for the building to be manufactured off-site and then delivered for quick install.
Restaurant hours are planned for an initial close time of midnight, but Aibuedefe said he’d consider staying open 24-hours-a-day if its “financially effective” and safe for employees after midnight. The neighboring bowling alley is open until midnight during weekdays and 1:30 a.m. on weekends.
Checkers was founded in 1986 and merged with Rally’s in 1999. The Rally’s brand was kept in certain markets, but the same menu items are offered at both Checkers and Rally’s.