By Peter Saunders
Liliana ‘Lil’ Lovell opened the original Coyote Ugly saloon in 1993 in New York, N.Y., with a simple business plan: beautiful girls + booze = money. Each night, her ‘coyotes’ ascended the bar to entertain customers with dancing and drink-pouring. After being made famous by the 2000 Hollywood movie of the same name, Coyote Ugly expanded across the U.S., Germany, Russia and Ukraine. Now, Lovell is looking at Canada for her next wave of growth.
“It never hit me how far this thing had gone until we started opening saloons abroad,” she says. “As Coyote Ugly’s fame continues to grow, we look forward to taking Canada by storm, one boot-stomping bar at a time.”
While Lovell acknowledges Coyote Ugly may well be the most famous bar on the planet, she explains she has been careful not to overextend the business.
“We’re lucky to be famous, but I realized from watching other companies that the most important factor for success is the integrity of your brand,” she says. “We now have a lot of bars that are more than 10 years old and I have the infrastructure in place to train staff properly and roll out more locations. We’re not fly-by-night.”
Today, the chain includes four licensed and 10 company-owned bars in the U.S. and seven licensed locations in Europe. Canada will mark Coyote Ugly’s first experience with franchising.
“The difference between licensing and franchising is minor,” says Lovell, “but with franchising we’ll have more control and specificity in guarding our business model. And that’s how we’ll continue to grow internationally.”
The first Canadian franchise is likely to open in Montreal this spring. Lovell has also fielded interest from prospective franchisees in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.
“We look for spaces between 3,000 and 6,000 square feet, in cities with a population over one million and a decent amount of tourism in their entertainment districts,” she explains.
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