Local restaurant chain Waterloo Ice House has shed a few locations in recent months but is gearing up to open another Central Texas restaurant in 2014.
Waterloo Ice House shut down its Avery Ranch location in August and its Bee Caves location in November. The chain’s owners closed the two restaurants after deciding not to renew the licensing agreements of the independent owner-operators, spokeswoman Jena Umstattd said.
Another location not owned by the company — the Waterloo Ice House at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport — also closed in 2013. Umstattd said the licensee’s contract with the airport expired.
“It is nearly impossible to keep the vision of a brand on track when you have split leadership between the core team and an outside owner.” — Waterloo Ice House President Ted Karam
Three fewer restaurants are open now in Central Texas, but “we plan to continue expanding,” Umstattd said, “although we will only be moving forward with our core team for Austin area locations.”
In other words, only company-owned restaurants will operate under the Waterloo Ice House umbrella.
The five remaining Waterloo Ice House restaurants in Austin are owned by a group of investors led by Ted Karam and Scott Hentschel. The ownership group is preparing to open a new location sometime in 2014; sites in Cedar Park and Kyle are among those under consideration, Umstattd said.
Also in the works are menu and website updates.
In a news release, Karam said the chain’s future rests with company-owned locations.
“We have learned a lot from our work with stores that were not operated by our team,” said Karam, president of Waterloo Ice House. “It is nearly impossible to keep the vision of a brand on track when you have split leadership between the core team and an outside owner.”
The first Waterloo Ice House opened four decades ago on Congress Avenue. Karam took over the chain in 1993.
“Although we have been open since 1976 and are an Austin icon, we have evolved from a traditional ice house and live music venue into an entertainment venue that is appealing to anyone and everyone,” Umstattd said.
“Our company philosophy is to treat people like souls, not dollars,” she added. “We take the treatment of our customers very seriously and strive to make everyone feel like a part of the Waterloo family the minute they walk through our doors.”