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