The famed high-quality fast food chain Fuddrucker's opened its doors inside the NY Waterway ferry terminal last week, complete with a full-service bar that overlooks the Manhattan skyline.
The restaurant will not only cater to the fast-paced commuters who travel to and from Manhattan via the ferry service, but will also encourage regular clientele who want to have a burger and a beer and enjoy the picturesque setting.
NY Waterway President Arthur Imperatore and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner were on hand for the official ribbon cutting ceremony and to congratulate owners Glenn Taus and Rich Berland on their new business venture.
What a view
"I think it's a great thing," said Taus, who has owned Nathan's and Pizza Hut franchises in New York prior to starting this Fuddrucker's in Weehawken. "We're definitely part of the environment of the new ferry terminal, where commuters can get off the boat, make an order to go and go home in quick fashion. But we also have a great location, overlooking the Hudson River that may make people want to stay a while and enjoy themselves before going home.
Added Taus, "People who are local residents can also come to visit as well, thanks to the parking plan." Imperatore will soon instruct the personnel that run the NY Waterway parking lot to allow residents to park there to visit Fuddrucker's, provided they present a validated parking ticket from the restaurant.
"The validation plan will be in place, so the people who live in the nearby complexes can come to visit us as well," Taus said. "There is no nicer view of Manhattan around."
Serving the community
Berland was the first franchisee to open a Chuck E. Cheese facility in Long Island and also owned a Burger King in Manhattan. He was all set to bring a Fuddrucker's to Marina del Rey in California, when a representative for the national burger chain recommended the proposed Weehawken location.
"I never had any business in New Jersey before," Berland said. "Sure, I bet you're asking why a guy would leave southern California to open a business in New Jersey. But I came here three years ago, before the ferry terminal was built and I saw the promise. It was three years in the making. It was a long time coming.
Added Berland, "Because of the new development in the area and because it keeps growing, I thought this would be a perfect site to serve the commuters and serve the community. I'm very excited about it. What really sold me and made me come here was the view. It's like no other place around."
So much so that Berland sold his interest in the California location and sold his home there to move to West New York.
"I just wanted to be within walking distance of the new location," Berland said. "It's a bit of a gamble, but I think it's worth it."
Berland said that he leases the space from NY Waterway and signed a 20-year deal to remain there, so Fuddrucker's is here to stay in Weehawken.
"It might have been taking a gamble, but I'm not that crazy," Berland said. "I needed to have the stability."
Burgers and beer
Fuddrucker's offers the speed of fast food with the quality of fine dining. The location also received a liquor license from the state of New Jersey (through NJ Transit), so people can stop and enjoy a cocktail or two before heading on to the ferries or just heading home.
"It's an ideal location for us," Berland said. "I think we're going to be able to build a nice business here."
Just how nice?
"It's too early to tell," Berland said. "For it to be successful, we had to have a restaurant inside the terminal, where people can sit, eat, enjoy. Sure, the takeout business will be big, but we needed to have a place where people can enjoy themselves and enjoy the only good burger in town."
Turner said that the township wholeheartedly welcomed the addition to the business community. The deal received approval from the Planning Board when it came up a few months ago.
"This is great," Turner said after eating one of the first burgers, which he insisted on paying for.
"They're offering high quality fast food," Turner said. "There's a nice bar area and a great view. They made sure that it's not strictly for commuters, but residents of Weehawken as well. They're encouraging residents to come in."
Berland also made it a point to hire 15 residents to his support staff (exactly half of all employees hired) from the township of Weehawken.
"That was the kind of commitment we were looking for," Turner said. "It's a national business with a good reputation. It's a good fit for Weehawken."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com