RANTOUL — The village of Rantoul Revolving Loan Committee on Monday voted 5-1 to recommend approval of a $55,000 loan to a Rantoul couple who plan to buy an east-side restaurant.
Committee member Connie Nelson cast the lone "no" vote.
Duane and Jennifer Smith are seeking the loan, which would be paid back at 4 percent interest over seven years, to buy the Family Table restaurant at 1724 E. Grove Ave. in the Rantoul Plaza shopping center.
They plan to change the name of the establishment to Smiths’ Family Table.
The loan recommendation is subject to approval by the village board.
Committee member Denny Long moved the committee vote to recommend approval of the loan with several stipulations. They include that a first-lien security agreement be in place on all the furniture, fixtures and assets at the restaurant; that there be a lien placed on property the couple plans to sell on Eater Drive, with the understanding that when that deal closes, those proceeds would be applied to the loan; that a $7,000 bonus that Duane Smith said he will receive from his employer would go toward the loan; and that the Smiths provide a personal guarantee that they will form a limited liability company.
Family Table opened in early 2013.
Restaurant owners Larry and Jessy Dzeladini are selling the eatery, its equipment, furniture and fixtures for $40,000.
The Smiths are requesting $15,000 for working capital and to buy additional equipment.
According to the application, Duane Smith will continue to work at his present job at Aramark, while Jennifer Smith will be a full-time employee of the restaurant.
The Smiths will add both liquor sales and gaming machines, which they project will add $2,500-$6,000 a month in net sales.
Rantoul Mayor Chuck Smith said the village has one restaurant liquor license and a gaming license available.
The Smiths also plan to add a salad bar and other menu changes, which they believe will also increase sales.
The restaurant employs 10 people. Additional employees would be added as sales increase.
Under EDA loan requirements, a minimum of one job created or retained is required per $30,000 loaned.
The Smiths said in their application that they have always dreamed of owning a family restaurant and they both have restaurant and food management/handling experience.
Duane Smith told the committee that menu changes will be worked in gradually. In addition to the salad bar, the business will buy a charbroiler, and waitresses will take orders using mini iPads.
Ron Minch, who manages the Rantoul Plaza, said the restaurant spans more than 5,200 square feet, with more than 1,000 square feet being the kitchen.
Asked by the committee what challenges the business faces, Duane Smith said, "Getting people to the east side is going to be a little bit of a challenge because there’s not as much of a draw" on that side of town now.
He said they plan to change how the restaurant operates.
"One of the main things is bringing home-cooked food in," he said, "getting rid of the frozen pull-it-out-of-a bag, throw-it-in-a-fryer (food)."
Friday night’s menu will include prime rib with choice of potato, one trip through the salad bar and dessert.
Saturday night will also be steak night. He said the business will offer a ribeye with the salad bar.
Fish will be offered on Friday nights through the Lenten season and probably throughout the year because it has been a popular item.
French fries will be hand cut rather than frozen, and there will be buttermilk biscuits and fresh yeast dinner rolls baked daily.
Customers will be able to build their own hamburgers, with other sandwiches also on the menu.
Duane Smith said they will try to keep the liquor offerings in scale with the size of the venue, with four beers and two wines — one red and one white.
Added Jennifer Smith: "We are cutting out things that are not popular. We have all of the girls who are serving now, and some past servers, coming up with what they would like to see as specials. Instead of having 17 different specials a day, there will be (specials) for breakfast, lunch and dinner."
Jennifer Smith said she has managerial experience, having worked for AT&T, for which she managed more than 60 people.