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Travel plaza adds 4 restaurants

The Angola Travel Plaza's food court on the New York State Thruway has undergone a makeover, with four new restaurants that opened on Friday.

Franchisee Kevin DiPirro owns and operates all four locations: Moe's Southwest Grill, Cinnabon, Auntie Anne's Pretzels, and Carvel. The four businesses, representing a capital investment of about $1 million, replace a Denny's that had operated at the plaza.

DiPirro said his team "pulled an all-nighter" to get everything ready for the Friday debut. "It's been an exciting day," he said. "It's very busy."

The four brands are all part of Focus Brands, an Atlanta-based company which is targeting "nontraditional" sites such as travel plazas, airports, military bases and casinos for growth. Focus has more than 3,000 locations.

DiPirro owns two other Moe's restaurants, in Buffalo and Amherst. The opportunity to operate four different Focus locations in a single food court arose when the state issued a request for proposals last year for the Angola plaza. DiPirro and Focus learned early this year their proposal had been chosen.

DiPirro's locations have a 10-year agreement to operate at the plaza; they technically sublease from McDonald's, which continues to have a location there, too. A new Subway outlet is also opening at the plaza.

The travel plaza has high visibility, but DiPirro also has to try to attract customers as they drive by, rather than drawing from nearby neighborhoods like at his other restaurants. But the Angola plaza does have an advantage: it is accessible to both eastbound and westbound travelers via a pedestrian bridge over the highway.

The Angola plaza, one of 27 travel plazas along the Thruway system, is near the Eden/Angola exit.