McDonald’s is out and Subway is in at the two Billings Wal-Mart stores, and the local franchise owners are happy.
Kevin Perreault, who owns more than a dozen Subway stores with his partner, Steven Barkley, said the Subway at the Heights Wal-Mart opens this Friday and the one in the West End Wal-Mart will open in about three weeks.
“Ideally, we hope to have about 15 employees at the Heights store once things shake out. Same thing goes for the West End,” Perreault said.
The newer Wal-Mart stores usually go with Subway, he said.
“Wal-Mart is following suit with the rest of America in following a healthier lifestyle and healthier eating habits,” he said.
McDonald’s has been serving burgers and other fast-food fare at the Billings Wal-Marts for about a dozen years.
The changing of the food guard began last October when Pat Newbury, whose family owns this area’s McDonald’s franchises, decided not to renew the leases for the mini-restaurants inside Wal-Mart entrances.
“The Wal-Marts were part of the package deal when we bought this market nine years ago,” he said. “It was all or nothing, so we took them.”
But Newbury said when the two leases expired last October, he didn’t renew, deciding to concentrate on his family’s 11 more profitable full-size McDonald’s restaurants. He and his sons, Chris and John Newbury, own the McDonald’s restaurants in Billings, east to Miles City, in Hardin and west to Columbus.
“It’s a business decision. We had the opportunity to move on, and we did,” said the 47-year McDonald’s veteran. “Subway really doesn’t need the overhead and the people we need.”
After the leases expired, Newbury kept the two McDonald’s open at Wal-Mart’s request until January, when Subway took over.
Perreault runs the restaurants, and Barkley handles real estate and remodeling. Langlas & Associates gutted and remodeled the Heights restaurant in five weeks. The West End Subway will open in another three weeks, Perreault said.
Wally Yovetich owns the other Subway restaurants in Billings.
Including the two about to open, Perreault and Barkley will operate 14 local Subways. That probably is a saturation point of sorts, said Perreault, a 21-year veteran of the franchise.
“When you talk nontraditional, as we’re doing here, you have to get creative,” he said. “But as long as we can open a store and provide good food for our customers, the model works.”