Massachusetts outlet of 5 & Diner Chain closes

The 5 & Diner in Lincoln Plaza, Worcester, Mass.
2007 photo by Larry Cultrera

Sorry to hear that the first and only Massachusetts location of the 5 & Diner chain has closed within the last 2 weeks. The diner was opened in 2006 at a location in Lincoln Plaza in Worcester by Bob & Laurie Watson, who ended up buying the whole chain within a couple of years of the opening from Ken Higginbotham. The 5 & Diner chain of restaurants were started in 1989 by Higginbotham in Phoenix, Arizona. I wrote about this chain after meeting with Bob & Laurie back in April, see…..

A week ago I got a message from Barry Henley asking if I had heard about the closing of Lou-Roc’s Diner in Worcester. I told him I had not and got a message back from him saying he made a call to Lou-Roc’s and they answered the phone saying they were open for business. Well as the story continues, I got a call from my brother Rick who works for a company that supplies knives/cutlery to restaurants throughout the area and he heard from the driver who takes care of the route around central Massachusetts that the 5 & Diner closed.

I sent a message to my friend Shawn Fallon who was the General Manager at the 5 & Diner and he said things seemed to be going good… he received great marks in his 1-year review and within weeks was let go and a short time later the doors were closed. This news is not good especially this close to the holidays for Shawn who has a young family to support as well as  for all the other people who worked there.

It is always sad when a diner closes, be it a regular mom & pop family-run diner or an outlet of a national chain. I have even recently read articles mentioning that the Watson’s are still trying to expand the chain here on the east coast but I do recall Bob telling me that the Worcester location which was not highly visible from the street might not have been the best location.

Introducing Bob & Laurie Watson, owners of the 5 & Diner chain of restaurants

Back in December I did a little blurb in a “Notes from the Hotline” about the 5 & Diner chain of “Diner concept” restaurants and how the company was poised for a major expansion, see…. When I posted that I noticed how there was a fairly new Massachusetts connection to this chain of restaurants that was started in 1989 by Ken Higginbotham in Phoenix, Arizona. The connection happened to be the fact that the people who bought the only New England franchise back in 2006 (and opened it in Worcester, Mass.) were Bob & Laurie Watson.

image courtesy of 5 & Diner

When the Watsons bought the franchise they had also obtained the right of first refusal in the event that Higginbotham ever decided to sell the chain. Well as fate would have it, within  2 years of the opening of the Worcester 5 & Diner, Higginbotham had some health problems and needed to cut back, so he made the painful decision to sell. On August 1, 2008, the Watsons bought the Franchise Rights and Trade Name “5 & Diner”.

5 & Diner, Lincoln St., Worcester, Mass. photo by Larry Cultrera

After doing a little research for the previous post in December, I got in touch with the new owner, Bob Watson and introduced myself. We had a couple of conversations during which I mentioned about this blog as well as my book, “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” among other things.

interior of Worcester 5 & Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

Another thing that came up during one of the conversations was the fact that I was born and raised in Medford and graduated from high school (Medford Voc-Tech) in 1971. Bob told me his wife Laurie also graduated from Medford High in 1971! This surprised me and later that day I went home and checked out the yearbook. Laurie’s maiden name started with a “D” so when I looked, I saw that her graduation photo was 2 spots directly below mine on the same page! What a small world!

5 & Diner, Lincoln St., Worcester, Mass. photo by Larry Cultrera

We arranged to meet March 25, 2012 out in Worcester where the Watsons had reserved one of the “round booths” that are situated in the front corners of the diner. Denise and I met Bob and Laurie and we all enjoyed a great lunch at the 5 & Diner (although I think Laurie actually had a “breakfast entrée”). We talked about diners, and how they got into buying a franchise and of course ultimately the whole chain. They gave me an informational brochure that outlines all the affiliated companies (besides 5 & Diner) that come under their corporate umbrella known as LPM Holding Company. This company employs more than 700 people in 9 states, including Bob & Laurie’s sons, Patrick and Mike.

interior of Worcester 5 & Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

The Watsons come to this venture (5 & Diner) with a wealth of experience as both of them are listed as co-chairmen and CEO’s of the company with roots that go back to the late 1970’s when they started by purchasing Epicurean Feast, a commercial food service contractor. According to their info, Epicurean Feast is the largest privately held food service firm in New England as well as 35th largest in the country!

interior of Worcester 5 & Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

Another company that comes under the LPM “umbrella” is  “Sebastians”. Sebastians is a local, family owned business started in 1994 that serves the freshest, finest American and International fare to the Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts communities.  These cafés in Boston and Cambridge serve health conscious menus for breakfast, coffee, and lunch, while providing drop-off corporate catering to businesses, and special event catering to the Commonwealth. The Watsons realized a long-held dream of owning a restaurant in Boston when they purchased this business in 2010. There currently are 6 locations for Sebastians including 100 Summer St.,  157 Seaport Blvd., One Devonshire Place, 126 High St., and 251 Massachusetts Ave. in Boston as well as 7 Cambridge Center in Cambridge.

Laurie and Bob Watson outside the 5 & Diner in Worcester, Mass.
photo by Larry Cultrera

According to the informational brochure I have, other LPM companies include Encore Party Rentals, Seasonal Specialties Food Services, and Currier & Chives Catering. Bob & Laurie also started the LPM Charitable Foundation. This Foundation’s primary focus will be on the prudent investment of available resources in programs in the areas of education, environment, health and human services, community and civic development, and the arts. Additional consideration will be given in certain instances to grants to organizations outside these categories.

To get back to 5 & Diner, when the Watsons first opened their franchise in Worcester, there were 15 units operating. When they had acquired the company from Higginbotham, the number of locations had dropped to 12 (in 5 states) the Watsons had plans to possibly expand the chain right away. Unfortunately, franchise-based financing disappeared with the recession, which effectively delayed those plans. Now, the Watsons think the time is right and have developed a new prototype that includes less square footage than the “free-standing” units they currently have. This new prototype will be what Watson terms “in-line eateries, basically built into existing buildings.

artist’s rendering of the exterior of the 2011 “5 & Diner prototype”
Courtesy of 5 & Diner

Watson states, this in-line model will reduce construction costs from about $1.3 million to $450,000 – $650, 000. The diners will be smaller, 3,000 sq. ft. as opposed to 4,200 sq. ft. with 92 seats instead of 112.

artist’s rendering of the interior of the 2011 “5 & Diner prototype”
Courtesy of 5 & Diner

The Watsons have partnered with Northboro Builders, Inc. to help develop the future franchise locations as well as Cassidy Turley, a leading commercial real estate services provider, who will ensure proper execution of site search and real estate processes. They also have enlisted the Buxton Company, a large retail research firm to help identify strong markets for potential franchisees.

Some of the markets that the Watsons have earmarked for future franchises include New Jersey (where they hope to open 8 locations), Connecticut (5 locations) as well as other locations in Pennsylvania, New York and even Florida.

As mentioned above, 5 & Diner’s are currently operating at 12 locations, 2 are owned outright by the Watsons,  the Worcester diner and the original one located at 5220 N. 16th Street in Phoenix, AZ. All remaining 5 & Diner locations are franchised including the ones in Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale (and 3 others in Phoenix) Arizona, as well as ones in Orlando, FL, Pleasant Hill, IA and Tulsa, OK. There is also a 5 & Diner Deluxe which I believe is not free-standing in Surpise, AZ.

For more info on LPM Holding Company check out  these links ….,,, ,, and

Notes from the Hotline, 12-26-2011


Southwest Diner chain, 5 & Diner sets plans in motion with expansion program. Has new connections to Massachusetts

5 & Diner, a 1950’s retro-diner chain started in Phoenix, Arizona back in 1989 has announced new expansion plans that have a local connection to Massachusetts. According to the info below that was reported in an article on, the chain currently has 12 outlets in five states, including one here in the Bay State. Back in 2007 I was watching the locally produced “Phantom Gourmet”  TV show and they did a piece on the newly opened (August, 2006) 5 & Diner located at 525 Lincoln Street in Worcester, Mass. Up until that time I had no knowledge that one of these had been opened up this way!

So on February 24, 2007 I took a ride out to Worcester with my brother Rick and pal Steve Repucci to check this place out. One thing I found curious is that the restaurant did not open until 7:00 am, which is late for this area. Especially in Worcester as there are so many classic diners that in fact do open earlier.

5 & Diner @ 525 Lincoln Street, Worcester. Feb. 24, 2007 exterior photo
by Larry Cultrera

5 & Diner @ 525 Lincoln Street, Worcester. Feb. 24, 2007 exterior photo
by Larry Cultrera

5 & Diner @ 525 Lincoln Street, Worcester. Feb. 24, 2007 interior photo
by Larry Cultrera

These diners are built on site although I understand it comes in prefabricated pieces like a kit (this is unsubstantiated). The news piece below mentions the new ownership of  5 & Diner as Bob and Laurie Watson of LPM Holding Company located in Maynard, Mass. They were the ones who opened the Worcester location. Anyway the company is starting a new franchise program and have contracted with two national firms to help with the undertaking. Below is the piece from with all the details…..

’50s-style restaurant franchise forms Strategic Partnerships to help with Re-Launch of franchise program

Maynard, MA  (  As part of its aggressive franchise growth plan to bring back the roadside diner experience across the country, 5 & Diner has announced strategic relationships with retail commercial real estate service provider Cassidy Turley and retail construction specialists Northboro Builders, to help potential franchisees with site selection and store build outs.

What started in 1989 as a one-store concept in Phoenix quickly became known throughout the region as the most authentic, unique, and cool ‘50s diner experience in the country. The franchise, which has developed over the years to 12 locations in five states, is entering a new stage of growth as it looks to propel the brand name throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions by attracting new franchisees with a fresh prototype, revamped menu and new leadership.

5 & Diner’s relationship with Cassidy Turley, a leading commercial real estate services provider, will ensure proper execution of site search and real estate processes.

“We’re looking forward to partnering with 5 & Diner and supporting their identification and selection of properties across the nation,” said Rick Bagy, Vice President of Cassidy Turley. “We’ve built a scalable growth model that enables our restaurant and retail clients to open more than 4,000 locations annually and we’re excited to help 5 & Diner reach their growth goals with the right locations.”

In addition, the partnership with Northboro Builders will assist franchisees with turn-key packages that include architecture, construction, project management and permitting, for opening new restaurants.

“I have been working closely with 5 & Diner as they plan their national expansion of the brand. I applaud the team they have assembled and their dedication to enhancing the concept and having the best product possible for their new franchisees,” said Ken Nahigian, Vice President of Business Development & Operations with Northboro Builders. “Northboro Builders is unique in our complete turn-key approach to national franchise build-outs and we look forward to contributing to 5 & Diner’s inevitable success.”

To help attract new franchisees, 5 & Diner has launched a new prototype designed to lower development costs and introduce a non-freestanding development option. The authenticity and unique nature of the business means that franchise competition is nearly nonexistent – as an authentic ‘50s diner concept, 5 & Diner isn’t just another burger joint or family dining chain. And with locations currently in five states there is plenty of room to grow. Typical development costs range from $450,000-$750,000 and the average unit sales volume is more than $1.1 million.

Heralded and loved for its classic ‘50s décor complete with chrome, bright lights, juke boxes and open seating, 5 & Diner is cashing in on the $33 billion family dining segment. To inquire about franchise opportunities, visit

About 5 & Diner

Founded in Phoenix, Arizona in 1989, 5 & Diner has become known for its no-holds-barred ‘50s flashback theme, top-quality food at an affordable price, and award-winning burgers and shakes. Currently with 12 locations across five states, 5 & Diner prides itself on providing the customer with the most authentic ‘50s diner experience in America. In 2008, 5 & Diner was purchased by Bob and Laurie Watson of LPM Holding Company, Inc. with a vision to spread the company across the nation and share the joy that it brings them everyday. For franchise opportunities, visit, and for general information visit

About Northboro Builders

Northboro Builders, Inc. is a retail construction specialist established in 1998 that provides self-performing construction and project management for retail store projects nationwide. The company offers complete turn-key packages which include architecture, construction, project management and permitting. From coast to coast, Northboro gives every job the same meticulous attention to detail while setting and meeting tight deadlines. Visit for more information.

About Cassidy Turley

Cassidy Turley is a leading commercial real estate services provider with more than 3,400 professionals in more than 60 offices nationwide. The company represents a wide range of clients—from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, from local non-profits to major institutions. The firm completed transactions valued at $18 billion in 2010, manages 455 million square feet on behalf of private, institutional and corporate clients and supports more than 25,000 domestic corporate services locations. Cassidy Turley serves owners, investors and occupiers with a full spectrum of integrated commercial real estate services—including capital markets, tenant representation, corporate services, project leasing, property management, project and development services, and research and consulting. In 2010, the firm enhanced its global service delivery outside of North America through its partnership with GVA. Visit for more information.

I will be keeping tabs on this to see what future developments occur!

L.A.’s Phil’s Diner closes after only being open for 8 months

After spending thousands of dollars and 12 plus years of time, Phil’s Diner in the NoHo section of L.A. was opened to a lot of fanfare close to 8 months ago. Restored and reopened by Malissa and Casey Hallenbeck, they hoped it would help herald the beginning of a new era, not just for this 1920’s vintage diner but for the burgeoning neighborhood.

According to Richard Gutman’s American Diner Then & Now, Phil’s Diner was more than likely built by Charles Amend, a transplanted Easterner who quite possibly had previously worked for P.J. Teirney Sons prior to coming to California. Originally part of J.F. (Phil) Phillips’s chain of diners This diner closed by 1998 and needed to be relocated because of a proposed new North Hollywood Metro Red Line Station.

old snapshot of Phil’s Diner at it’s old location from my collection
I’m not sure whose photo this is or where I even got it from.
(I seem to recall a John Baeder connection)

I received this photo by Joe Freeman, Circa 2001

I received this photo by Joe Freeman, Circa 2001

I received this photo by Joe Freeman, Circa 2001

Phil’s Diner Fresh n’ Fast prior to reopening. Photo from Phil’s Diner
Facebook page

Here is a report dated 12/20/2011 from the Daily News Los Angeles website by Gregory J. Wilcox, Staff Writer….

Phil’s Diner closes in NoHo, seeks new owner

Phil’s Diner, which brought some nostalgic panache to the NoHo’s Arts District in its brief second life, has closed. For now. The $1.1 million undertaking fell victim to bad timing, said Casey and Malissa Hallenbeck, the former owners who closed the retro eatery on Dec. 11, eight months after opening it.

Construction activity at the adjacent Laemmle NoHo 7, an art house film complex that opens today, hurt business as did the weak economy, the Hallenbecks said. “We’re going to try to recover financially as much as possible…and move forward,” said Casey Hallenbeck, who is also a set decorator in the entertainment industry. The longtime North Hollywood residents said they invested $600,000 of their own money in the project and the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency contributed $460,000. The 1920s era diner underwent an extensive restoration and was moved from the west side of Lankershim to the east side.

But this is not the end of Phil’s. NoHo developer JH Snyder Co. is in the process of taking over ownership and will find a new owner for the 26-seat diner with an outdoor patio. And it looks like this might not be a tough task.

“Folks right now are coming to us,” said Kacy Keys, Snyder’s senior vice president and general counsel. “We’ve gotten four or five phone calls so far and the Hallenbecks brought someone in to see us as well.” The Hallenbecks had a 25-year lease on the property in the 5400 block of Lankershim Boulevard with options for 30 more years.

“We wanted them to succeed. We’re sorry to see them go but we’re happy to see other parties interested,” Keys said. The redevelopment agency is comfortable with the situation, too. “It’s unfortunate the operator was unable to make a go of it, but we’re optimistic that Snyder will be able to quickly find another operator that can ensure that Phil’s Diner continues serving the Valley for decades to come,” spokesman David Bloom said in an email.

Malissa Hallenbeck said the diner closing just before the theater next door opens “does seem kind of ironic.” “It also is a telltale sign that it’s not our time to move forward,” she said. “Personally I feel that I’ve grown a lot and I’ve learned a lot. Situations like this really remind you what’s important, like health, family and a marriage.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents North Hollywood, said the diner’s closure is a temporary setback for the district. “I’m sorry our friends at Phil’s Diner were not able to weather the startup. We can’t control every wind and it was a windy time to get started,” he said. And today’s opening of the theater complex is the most important development for NoHo since the Red Line subway, LaBonge noted.

The theater and diner will eventually get a chance to complement each other, said Keys. “We think there is a strong market there and the theater will make it even stronger,” she said. Nancy Bianconi, editor of, a community website, is also sad that the Hallenbecks could not find success. “Everybody in the community was waiting for Phil’s to open and I can tell you from personal experience the food was good,” she said. “I’m hoping that Melissa and Casey can go onto the next chapter. I’m glad they stuck with it so that Phil’s Diner has a new life.”

The Hallenbecks acquired the diner in 1998 with plans to restore it. And Casey Hallenbeck considers that part of the project a success. “My love was not running a restaurant. It was the love of the project — to build it and restore it — and put it there for the community,” he said.