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Golden Corral opening in Las Vegas with 207 new workers

You never know who’s working next to you.

While working a temporary labor gig, Adrian Flowers saw an opportunity unfolding around him as the new Golden Corral was being built. He was on site, working with a few guys, bringing in restaurant equipment and readying it for installation.

“I didn’t know who I was working with. The day was going along and I asked the guy I was working with how I could apply for a job at Golden Corral. I did not know he was one of the owners,” Flowers said.

The man beside him, Jason Pastore, is a partner of the parent company, JMJ Cos.

“He told me I wouldn’t have to worry about it because he wanted me on his team because of my work ethic,” Flowers said. “I think it’s a blessing. I mean, I was in the right place at the right time.”

And now, Las Vegas, is the time for a winding buffet line filled with pot roast, meatloaf and fried chicken. And yes, the chocolate fountain has arrived.

Inside the new Golden Corral at 1455 S. Lamb Blvd., the buffet chain’s famous dessert fountain was flowing in all its glory Wednesday. The state’s only Golden Corral opens to the public at 10:30 a.m. today. The last Las Vegas Golden Corral closed 20 years ago.

The man who brought the family restaurant chain back to the city (and Nevada), Robert Lopez, is a franchise veteran who started his business adventure with an Arizona-based Burger King in 1995. Today, his JMJ has multiple enterprises under its umbrella: 12 Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers in the Phoenix area, one Wendy’s in McCarran International Airport, Chocolat at the Palms, a bistro in the car rental center at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and a hair and nail salon in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“All indications are that it will be a very successful Golden Corral,” Lopez said.

If all goes well at this location, JMJ plans to open at least two more sites in Las Vegas, one in the northwest and one in Henderson.

In all, 207 employees were hired to work at the new restaurant, with the help of Workforce Connections’ One-Stop Career Center.

“They were able to help us in many, many ways,” Lopez said.

There are 512 Golden Corrals nationwide. Arizona has 15 locations, with the closest being in Kingman and Lake Havasu. Utah has nine with the closest in St. George, while California has eight, with the closest in Hesperia.

The Raleigh, N.C.-based chain is privately owned, and the initial investment to open a Golden Corral franchise ranges from almost $2 million to more than $6 million. In 2011, the top one-third of Golden Corral franchises had $4.8 million to $7.6 million in sales. Total 2011 system sales were $1.68 billion across 482 units.

As Flowers begins his new restaurant career, he’ll be manning the grill, cooking steaks, fajitas and tacos, and carving ham, roast beef and prime rib.

“This means a lot,” he said.

Flowers followed his family to Las Vegas from Illinois in August, choosing to give up steady employment at the University of Illinois in landscaping and grounds to be closer to them. He was hoping for a job at UNLV in the same department, but lost out to another candidate.

“It was pretty painful at the time,” Flowers said.

After living off his savings for three months, Flowers said he’s ready to rock.

“I never go into a job settling for entry level because I want to grow. That’s me, that’s my attitude,” he said.

Already, management is eyeing him for a lead position as the restaurant moves out of opening mode and into a regular rhythm in a month or so, and Flowers said he plans to follow the Golden Corral chain as high as he can go.

The new restaurant is located on the south side of the Home Depot and El Super near the corner of Charleston and Lamb boulevards.

“My expectation is that it’s going to be a tremendous success,” Lopez said. “I think the location is a very good one.”

The restaurant’s price for dinner is $7.69 from 2-4 p.m. for seniors, and $11.79 after. Golden Corral is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

New baker Brianna Magnuson is another of the restaurant’s hires.

After attending the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, she was unemployed. Magnuson applied at multiple casinos and grocery stores but heard nothing back. She saw news of the restaurant’s hiring event on television, and went down to the One-Stop Career Center the next day.

Fifteen minutes after she arrived, she had her interview and was hired on the spot. Now she plans to save for a car, which will help her get to work.

“I’m just so happy because it’s so hard to find work here,” Magnuson said. “I just feel bad for all those people who still don’t have a job.”

As for the new Golden Corral, Lopez already has partnered with the Nellis Air Force Base support group and veterans organizations and will be working with them moving forward.

The restaurant’s community room — a private dining area for special events — is Air Force-themed.

“We like to get involved with our communities,” Lopez said.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

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