Surprise! TGI Friday's is returning to Champaign, at a different location and under different ownership.
William Torchia, who has operated TGI Friday's restaurants in Peoria and other parts of Illinois, acquired the franchise for Champaign after the former franchisees allowed their agreement to expire after a 20-year run.
Now Torchia is planning to open TGI Friday's in the former Chevy's Fresh-Mex at 103 W. Marketview Drive.
Torchia said it will be a total rebuild inside, with everything expected to be gutted except the exterior walls and roof.
He hasn't been issued a building permit yet, but figures the restaurant will open about 120 days after a permit is issued. It's likely the restaurant will open late this year or early next year, he said.
Torchia, who lives in East Peoria, said he has TGI Friday's restaurants in Peoria, Moline, Quincy and Rockford.
He initially started as a Subway operator, opening his first restaurant in 1988 and continuing as a franchisee for almost 20 years. He opened his first TGI Friday's in Peoria in 2005.
As for the location on Marketview Drive, Torchia said he likes its proximity to Interstate 74 and Market Place Shopping Center.
"I'd rather be on North Prospect, but there's no place to go there," he said.
Torchia said he plans to honor TGI Friday's gift cards, as well as points built up in the restaurant's "Give Me More Stripes" rewards program.
Meanwhile, David Block, one of the investors involved in the former TGI Friday's at Trade Centre South, reports that his new restaurant at that location — Prairie Fire — is likely to open in late August.
Prairie Fire is awaiting arrival of special windows that will fit in with plans for the restaurant's open-air bar and landscaped patio. The restaurant will serve steaks, prime rib, chicken, seafood and an array of Italian and Mexican dishes.
El Toro to occupy new Urbana site
Watch for the El Toro restaurant at 1104 N. Cunningham Ave., U, to move up the street to the former Montana Mike's building at 1801 N. Cunningham Ave., U.
Owner Martin Fuentes said he took possession of the Montana Mike's building on Tuesday and hopes to move into it in October.
El Toro has been at its current location since 2002. But the new location will be able to seat 256, up from the current 120, and will have a much bigger parking lot.
Fuentes said the menu will remain the same, but he plans to make a few changes to the Montana Mike's building. He said he wants to make the interior lighter and add an outdoor patio, perhaps next year.
Entry to the restaurant's parking lot is from Willow Road, to the west, and Fuentes said he'd like to add another entrance from Willow Road, this one closer to Country Club Road.
Fuentes owns the El Toro restaurants in Urbana and St. Joseph. He said family members Victor and Sammy Fuentes operate the El Toros in Champaign — El Toro II on South Neil Street and El Toro Bravo on West Springfield Avenue.
TCBY grand opening set for Friday
TCBY, the frozen-yogurt shop that opened July 27 at Old Farm Shops in Champaign, has set its grand opening for Friday — and if you're lucky and determined, you could win a year's worth of frozen yogurt.
Franchise owner Todd Thorstenson said the shop will open at 11 a.m. that day, and the first 50 customers will receive 10 ounces of frozen yogurt a week for a full year.
Thorstenson said he's heard of people who plan to camp out overnight in order to snag the prize.
But even if you're not among those lucky 50, you may win some other freebies.
Thorstenson said the first 100 customers will get a TCBY T-shirt, and all customers that day will receive their first 3 ounces of frozen yogurt free.
Plus, there are other events scheduled that day. TCBY — which stands for The Country's Best Yogurt — is holding a Chef's Challenge at 3 p.m. in which Thad Morrow of Bacaro and Carmon's and Eric Shell of Boltini will compete against a youngster in creating frozen-yogurt concoctions.
The winner will be determined by a judging panel made up of University of Illinois men's basketball coach John Groce, Champaign Mayor Don Gerard and radio personality Lon Tay.
Contestants will have plenty to work with: the shop has 18 flavors of frozen yogurt and at least 36 toppings. Customers make their own concoctions and pay by the ounce.
Also Friday, there will be a drawing for a mountain bike, and face painters, balloon artists, stilt walkers and other entertainers will be on hand.
In addition to frozen yogurt in cups and waffle cones, the shop offers frozen pies and cakes, including a white chocolate mousse cake, Thorstenson said.
The new TCBY shop is at 1731 W. Kirby Ave. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The new store's phone number is 607-5090. The website is http://www.tcby.com/oldfarm .
Golden Arches to rise soon
Ground was broken Monday for the new McDonald's restaurant on the northwest corner of Prospect Avenue and Bloomington Road in Champaign.
"It should be open around the first of November," said Dwight Miller, whose company, Dash Management, operates 10 other McDonald's in the Champaign-Urbana area.
Miller said the new restaurant will have a "side-by-side drive-thru" and will accommodate about 90 customers inside.
The new restaurant expects to hire about 80 people to work at the new store. Those interested in jobs can call the Dash Management office, 328-0200, or go to the McDonald's career website, http://www.mcstate.com , Miller said.
Contact Don Dodson at 351-5227 or 800-252-3346; by email at email@example.com; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.