"We're very excited to come to Portsmouth," said Jill Conway, a spokeswoman for Neighborhood Hospitality, Inc. - the company that owns the New Boston AppleBee's franchise. "We think Portsmouth is just a fabulous town, and we're just really excited to come there and offer hopefully some great food and service to the residents."
She said the biggest reason for the delayed opening was the unique design of the building.
"The building we built in Portsmouth is actually a brand- new prototype. It is actually one of the first 10 being built like that in the nation. I believe that just being built like that, due to it being a new construction prototype, is primarily the majority of the reason for the delay," Conway said.
Before the doors open on Tuesday, however, the restaurant plans on making sure its staff is ready. On Saturday, employees will participate in a training session, serving real food to real customers. These customers will be among the first to eat inside the new restaurant, and they earned that privilege by purchasing special tickets from Sierra's Haven for New and Used Pets on Saturday.
Sierra's Haven is a local non-profit animal shelter, housing 200 cats and about 90 dogs, according to volunteer coordinator Joan Howell.
"What they've done is donated tickets to Sierra's Haven for us to sell, to earn money like a fundraiser, for people to go in and eat (on Saturday). It's like a big trial run for the store, but it gives us money as well with our tickets," said Alice Newman, a tech at Sierra's Haven.
Conway called these training events VIN (Very Important Neighbor) parties. Tickets are sold for $50 for dinner and $40 for lunch, which include an appetizer, drink and meal for four guests. 168 tickets were donated to the shelter, each with scheduled times on them, ranging from 11:30 a.m. until 1:45 p.m. for lunch tickets, and 4:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. for dinner tickets.
Only about 20 lunch tickets remained on Thursday morning. All the ticket proceeds will go to Sierra's Haven.
"Sierra's is very, very grateful for the opportunity to earn money for the shelter. We appreciate all the help from the community that we can get," Howell said.
Conway said other, more popular charities often get attention while charities for things like animals, such as Sierra's Haven, are often overlooked.
"Animals tend to be the thing that is left out, or forgotten. We thought that Sierra's Haven is a phenomenal organization doing great work in the community. They do great things for spaying and neutering, which of course helps the animal population, as well as they're a no-kill shelter. We just thought they were a perfect fit for us," Conway said.
The franchise company also hosts an annual fundraiser, called "Paws for Car Side," which is a month-long event in August, when the company donates a portion of its car side sales, from certain days of the week, to animal shelters or humane societies.
Howell said anyone still interested in purchasing lunch tickets for the VIN party on Saturday, can call her at Sierra's Haven, at (740) 353-5100.
Following the special training on Saturday, the restaurant will have an official ribbon-cutting Tuesday morning at 10:45 a.m. Doors will open to the public at 11 a.m.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.