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Two years after disappearing from the local restaurant landscape, the Perkins restaurant chain is returning.

The Restaurant Group, the Rochester-based franchiser of Perkins Restaurant & Bakery units for Central and Western New York, plans to open three eateries in the Buffalo market in the next year, with more to come. Vivian Brooks, Perkins' corporate spokesperson, said all the new Perkins will be 6,000-square-foot, new-build units featuring the company's latest format.

"You'll be seeing the Perkins of the future," Brooks said. "It's a very cozy, warm look, with separate, themed-rooms, that are very different from what we had in the past."

The varied dining rooms, which include a library with a fireplace, garden room, a formal parlor and a "lanai," which is a veranda-style area.

"The cozy decor really lends itself to varying mealtimes," Brooks said. "While we still make the best pancakes around, our emphasis is meeting dining needs from breakfast, right through the day."

The Restaurant Group is targeting Tonawanda, Hamburg and Amherst for its first three units. The first site finalized for development is 1140 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Tonawanda, just down the street from the recently-opened Krispy Kreme doughnut shop.

The Tonawanda Perkins is expected to be open late this year, with the other two units to debut in early 2002.

Western New York was a long-time home to what had been known as the Perkins Family Restaurant chain, with as many as 10 units operating in Erie County in recent years. Those units were shuttered in early 1999 when franchisor, Perk Development Corp. of Rochester filed bankruptcy and sold the restaurants to South Carolina-based Advantica Restaurant Group. Advantica, one of nation's largest restaurant companies, converted most of the local units to the Denny's nameplate.

While Perkins plots its return, the dining deja vu won't stop there. As The Buffalo News reported last August, the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) chain is also planning to reset the local table. The company is finalizing deals with Buffalo's Benderson Development for a slot in Cheektowaga's Thruway Plaza, fronting Walden Avenue, and with Amherst's Benchmark Development, for the former Chi-Chi's restaurant site at 4003 Maple Road, near Boulevard Mall. Both of those units are expected to open this year, with a third site planned for Transit Road in Amherst.

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