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Owner moving forward with plan for new burger drive-thru on Auburn Blvd

Checkers, Citrus Heights
A prototype design submitted to the city gives a visual idea of what’s planned for the new Checkers drive-thru on Auburn Boulevard.

Sentinel staff report–
Drivers seeking a quick bite to eat on Auburn Boulevard may have two new drive-thru options before the end of the year: one specializing in pizza by the slice, and the other serving up seasoned fries, big burgers, chicken wings and milkshakes.

The city has already approved plans for California Quick Slice to bring a new pizza drive-thru to an old gas station at 7766 Auburn Blvd. and is currently reviewing plans for a new Checkers burger drive-thru at 7911 Auburn Blvd. Although discussion about bringing Checkers to the Boulevard have been around since last year, local Franchisee Ben Aibuedefe didn’t submit plans to the city until a month ago.

Related: Citrus Heights planning commission approves new drive-thru pizza

The Checkers site plan calls for a small, 827-square-foot modular building to be constructed off-site and brought to a currently vacant half-acre lot in front of Steve Cook’s Fireside Lanes bowling alley. The plan shows a drive-thru window on the south side, 12 parking spaces along Grand Oaks Boulevard, and an outdoor seating area with a walk-up window and several tables with canopies.

Two existing driveways would be removed and replaced with landscaping, allowing access from Auburn Boulevard at an existing shared driveway with the bowling alley. Another driveway is also shown allowing access from Grand Oaks Boulevard.

Citrus Heights Associate Planner Alison Bermudez confirmed on Thursday that indoor eating is not proposed, as is typical of Checkers restaurants in other parts of the country. The Florida-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurant Inc. currently has over 800 locations nationwide, but the Citrus Heights location is the first proposed in the Sacramento area.

The Sacramento Bee reported last week that Checkers had already scheduled an opening date of Sept. 18 for the Citrus Heights restaurant, but the franchisee told The Sentinel on Thursday that he isn’t ready to set an opening date yet, since plans haven’t yet been approved by the city.

“At this time I don’t have a timeline,” said Aibuedefe. “But I’m 100 percent confident that we’ll get it done this year.”

The franchisee said he and his engineer are currently reviewing comments recently received from the city regarding the plans submitted.

As with other proposals, Bermudez said the city reviews the plans and responds with a checklist of comments, questions, concerns and modifications. She said street improvements along Auburn Boulevard, such as sidewalks, curbs, and gutters, would likely be required, along with parking lot lighting and landscaping.

Since the project calls for a drive-thru, Bermudez said the city’s planning commission will hold a hearing on the proposal, likely in early summer.

If everything goes smoothly with the permit process, Aibuedefe said his new restaurant could pop up within six weeks after permits are issued, due to the company’s new “modular” format that allows for the building to be manufactured off-site and then delivered for quick install.

“It will add to the plan for redevelopment,” the franchisee told The Sentinel. “We are bringing in something that will be a boost to the city.”

The proposed 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 announced last year that it was seeking to open 26 restaurants in the Sacramento area.

As previously reported on The Sentinel, Aibuedefe immigrated to the United States from Nigeria in his twenties and now lives in Roseville. The 58-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. “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 Auburn Boulevard and Grand Oaks 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.”

Although not initially proposing 24-hour operation, Aibuedefe previously said he’d consider staying open 24 hours 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.

The owner of California Quick Slice is also considering 24-hour operation, if there’s demand. Both drive-thru’s are hoping to open later this year.

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