FeatZ’s unique model attracts high school students


FeatZ, located in Breton Village Mall on the city’s southeast side, features big screens and funky seating for its target demographic. Courtesy Daniel Barcheski

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Imagine if a restaurant doubled as a kind of movie theater showcasing local students’ accomplishments while raising money for their school.

For the past few months, students in grades 5-12, along with their families, have been flocking to a unique new restaurant venture called FeatZ, located at the back of Breton Village in a 2,000-square-foot space at 1874 Breton Road SE, Grand Rapids. The casual-style restaurant, complete with flat screens, beanbag chairs and an old-school Retro Arcade, serves hotdogs, chips, soft drinks and slushies.

FeatZ is the brainchild of owner Daniel Barcheski, who also owns Axios Inc., a Grand Rapids-based human resources company. It’s an idea he’s been toying with for about 20 years, he said, one that combines celebrating students’ accomplishments with funding the school connected to the restaurant.

Here’s how the first feature of the idea works: FeatZ is covered in flat screens for students to watch their school athletic competitions, plays, recitals, debates, etc. Barcheski and his team are working on a “monumental” app that will make it easy for students, coaches and parents to load and play their photos and videos on the restaurant’s flat screens. The app should be ready in January, he said.

“Our goal is to assure that every student who has had positive personal or team achievements receive recognition in a fun, cutting-edge restaurant,” said Michael Lang, restaurant manager. “Our social, video and sound application will be second to none.” 

So far, even without the app, the model is a success, Barcheski said, and many students, both male and female, come in to re-watch their events, a lot of which are sports-related. Saturdays were especially busy this fall after Friday night football games, he noted. 

“The concept behind FeatZ is it’s a location where students can go and watch videos, see pictures — even go into archive files and old yearbooks and see things they’ve accomplished,” he said.

“I think that the digital information age is prevalent and … people still need people and they still need to know they’re being recognized for true accomplishments. The technology helps because it’s current, it’s cutting edge, and the kids are drawn to that. I think that’s what’s winning the day for us.”

The second feature of FeatZ is that it supports the students’ school. When Barcheski opened FeatZ in September, he partnered with Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School. Two of his children graduated from Catholic Central and two more attend currently.

The restaurant employs about a dozen students, two assistant managers and one full-time manager, Barcheski said. Since he’s already the successful owner of another company, he doesn’t take a paycheck from FeatZ, he said. Instead, he gives that money to the school. Fifty-one percent of FeatZ’s profits go to Catholic Central, he said. If he can donate more, he will, he added. 

“The majority of the profits from the location will be donated back to Catholic Central,” he said. “So beside the mission of promoting the kids, it is also a funding mechanism.” 

Barcheski is looking to expand his model and would like to have locations in Grandville and Lowell sometime in mid- to late 2014. He hopes his model will be as successful for other West Michigan schools as it has been for Catholic Central. 

“If this beta worked, it would work anywhere,” he said. “We’re hoping kids from many different schools give it a try. Our goal is to have a location for each school system interested in this concept for its students.”

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