You probably don't know Norman Brinker, however, if you've ever eaten at Jack In The Box, Steak and Ale, Burger King, Bennigan's, Chili's, or the Pop N Fresh restaurants you've eaten at places he's left his mark on. Brinker is widely regarded as the man who invented modern casual dining restaurants. Brinker's most well-known creations Bennigan's and Steak and Ale haven't fared so well as the casual dining category has been shaking out the past 20 years. However, one of Brinker's most loved brands, Bennigan's, is coming back to the Kansas City area.

Brinker established Bennigan's while working for Pillsbury and the first restaurant opened in Atlanta in 1976. Bennigan's is known as the original "fern bar", or a restaurant that was designed to attract single folks, especially to the bar area. Brinker and many other senior managers left Pillsbury's Bennagin's and Steak and Ale management ranks after buying a small regional restaurant concept that focused on gourmet hamburgers named Chili's.

Unfortunately Brinker's departure for Chili's signaled the beginning of the end for Bennigan's. Mergers, acquisations, and sales of the restaurant chain occured rather frequently. Restaurants and the overall Bennigan's concept wasn't updated, food quality over time declined, and in 2008 the owners shuttered all of the corporate owned Bennigan's restaurants.

Like many chains, Bennigan's never died. In fact, both it and sister restaurant Steak and Ale are attempting to make a comeback, and that comeback is coming to the Kansas City area.

A new restaurant called KC Craft & Co. featuring Bennigan's On The Fly will open in the Holiday Inn on Reeder Street in Overland Park this summer according to a report in the Kansas City Star. The paper says Bennigan's On The Fly is Bennigan's concept for places where a full-scale Bennigan's Restaurant may not work, like hotels or places with commercial kitchens.

Yes, they will be offering Bennigan's World Famous Monte Cristo, and my Bennigan's favorite the Turkey O'Toole sandwich, along with 12 other Bennigan's favorites. The restaurant concept will also feature some menu items and wines not associated with Bennigan's.

I've always enjoyed eating at Bennigan's so I'm glad it's returning. Whether it was the Bennigan's in an outlot at the mall I grew up near, one of my go-to restaurants in Lansing, or a quiet place I hung out at a couple of times in the Quad Cities, I've always enjoyed their food and the fun I've had at the restaurant.

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