Carrie Rengers

Remodeled Wichita Bella Luna to serve as franchise model

The Bradley Fair Bella Luna Cafe will reopen Monday after being closed for two weeks to get an all-new look and an expanded patio, but owner Matteo Taha says this is more than a standard remodeling.

He says the new look will be the model for future franchises.

“This year is really the year to franchise,” says Taha, who has been planning to franchise for some time.

“We have people interested in Kansas City.”

He says there’s potential for two or three Bella Lunas there.

Taha says a woman in Mississippi has wanted to have a Bella Luna franchise for the past year.

“She could do more,” he says. “She’s going crazy every time we put her off.”

Taha still isn’t quite ready, but creating the new model is a start.

“We spent a lot to make it happen,” he says, though he won’t say how much.

There’s a new bar, furniture and windows along the entire front wall. There also are heaters and fans on an expanded patio, which also has new landscaping. The kitchen was remodeled as well, and some of its equipment was updated. Like his original Bella Luna on Central once had, the remodeled Bella Luna will have shawarma rotating on a spit near the kitchen for diners to see.

The one difference with future new Bella Luna sites is they will have larger banquet rooms than the 20-person room at the Bradley Fair location.

Key Construction was the contractor for the remodel.

“I’m very impressed,” Taha says of the company’s work.

He felt similarly about Rebecca Gates of SPT Architecture.

“She did awesome.”

Still, remodeling projects – even this one that came in under time – are difficult.

“I was so stressed out,” Taha says. In a matter of days, he says, “I lost 5 pounds, 6 pounds.”

He’s going to go through another remodeling with the west-side Bella Luna in the future, though.

Taha won’t be the one opening the restaurants beyond Wichita, though.

“I just want to franchise them.”

Taha says part of the reason he closed his Bella Luna at 4618 E. Central, where Georges French Bistro opened late last year, is so he can focus on franchising.

He visits his old location, though.

“I still go to Georges almost two or three times a week.”

Taha says even as he focuses on the future he has a hard time leaving the past behind.

For instance, when discussing Bella Luna, Taha says he sometimes mistakenly calls it the name of his first Wichita restaurant job with the Toubia family.

“Once a month, I say Chelsea’s or Olive Tree,” he says of the Toubias’ former two restaurants that were next to each other in Comotara Center at 29th and Rock Road.

“I love that place,” Taha says. “It made me what I am.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers